New Actors Guild production set in 1968, but issues are timeless, director says

rcopley@herald-leader.comJanuary 16, 2014 

  • IF YOU GO

    'Sealed for Freshness'

    What: Actors Guild of Lexington's production of Doug Stone's 2010 play

    When: 8 p.m. Jan. 17, 18, 23-25; 2 p.m. Jan. 19

    Where: Actors Guild of Lexington, 4383 Old Harrodsburg Rd.

    Tickets: $20 adults, $15 students and senior adults, $10 military. Available at 1-866-811-4111 or Actors-guild.com.

The play Sealed for Freshness, the latest production of Actors Guild of Lexington, takes us to the idyllic world of 1960s suburban America.

Richard is heading out for a night of bowling with the boys, and Bonnie is having neighbors over for that most wholesome of events, the Tupperware party.

The thing is, this is the 21st century, and when writers hark back to the mid-20th century these days, the intent is to peel back those idealized layers and look at what's really going on underneath. With Sealed for Freshness, published in 2010, playwright Doug Stone follows suit.

"I instantly found it very funny," director Jenny Christian said of the first time she read the script. "But there was also this underlying current of issues that are brought to the surface. There is a timelessness of the issues, like not being appreciated in a relationship, having children and feeling like part of your life was lost to them, and I was really impressed that there was this timelessness, but it was set in this very accessible setting of a Tupperware party in 1968."

The guest of honor is Diane (Allie Darden), the most successful Tupperware saleswoman in the Midwest, who just moved into the house across the street from Bonnie (Esther Harvey).

The party was organized by Jean (Kathryn Newquist), a wealthy friend who is enamored of Diane's success at selling containers — don't say plastic — that can solve problems with a snap of a lid. Jean's problem is her sister Sinclair (Abby Reeve), who is very pregnant with her fifth child and is not amused by the container show.

Rounding out the lineup is Tracy Ann (Annie Barbera), who has a knack for filling awkward silences with stories that are inappropriate, particularly for the proper facade Diane and Jean are trying to present.

"There are a lot of social and economic references through the play," Christian says. "It's not heavy on Vietnam or the civil rights movement or the feminist movement, but all of those things are referenced in the dialogue."

Many of the issues addressed are more domestic — such as gender roles in the home, particularly those of women and the tension between career and family. Bigger topics include how divorce, race and fidelity are viewed at the height of cultural shifts in the United States.

"People were looking at their lives in a way that questioned what they were used to," Christian says. "They all question their life in some way."

And they are doing it in the mid- century era that Actors Guild artistic director Eric Seale says he and the theater's technical staff have tried to replicate in the stage setting of Bonnie's living room. There are touches including saloon doors between the kitchen and living room, splashes of avocado green in the décor and, of course, the iconic food storage containers.

"We are using real Tupperware," Seal points out, noting that it was borrowed from the grandmothers and mothers of several cast and crew members.

It might be overshadowed now by brands like Rubbermaid and in-home soirees for Pampered Chef, but Tupperware, named for founder Earl Silas Tupper, continues to this day, still sold by consultants at in-home events.

"Any writer worth their salt chooses things for a reason," Christian says. "Tupperware was one of the first opportunities for women in sales to really, really go after a career."

Though it's set more than 40 years ago, the show has relevance, she says.

"The issue of balancing career and family now isn't just a women's issue, but it's an issue for anyone who has a family," Christian says. "Infidelity is the oldest issue in the book, and how you handle it or don't handle it is important.

"It's about living with the choices you make."

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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