Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van – A Zany Spoof with 100 Laughs at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van – A Zany Spoof with 100 Laughs at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van
The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Jordan Wright
September 12, 2023
Special to The Zebra

Patrick Gallagher, Teresa Preston, and John Paul Odie (Photo/Fred Lash)

In Mary Lynn Dobson’s comedy Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van we become witness to the antics of a zany theatre troupe at The Neighborhood Actors Summer Fun Repertory Theatre. Due to the limited space in the troupe’s playhouse, the company spends time backstage and in a parking lot where volunteer and resident aging hippie, Vondo (Paul Donahoe), who has a predilection for playing the intro to Iron Butterfly’s Smoke on the Water and lives out of his van with fellow techie and volunteer Jeannie.

As they prepare for their production of Hello Dolly led by Eric (Ian Wade), an artistic director with a knack for turning every musical into a murderous, sex-crazed horror show, things immediately start to go awry. “See beyond the words!” Eric tells the cast coming up with bizarre alternate realities for the plot. There’s hilarious conflict aplenty when Mike, the director, tries futilely to rein Eric in telling Meredith who’s playing Dolly Levy that, contrary to what Eric has told her, Dolly is most assuredly not meant to be portrayed as a pimp.

Ian Wade (Eric) and Ann Brodnax (Meredith) (Photo/Fred Lash)

Meanwhile chorus boy Daniel (well played by Joe Neff) is determined to suck up to Jeff, the theater’s producer, begging him to produce his silent play, “Mime: The Musical”. Some of the play’s funniest bits are Daniel racing around miming and tap dancing and driving them all crazy. Think Pee Wee Herman.

John Paul Odie and Joe Neff (Daniel) (Photo/Fred Lash)

This is the broadest sort of comedy with tons of sight gags, pratfalls, silly costumes and daffy shenanigans. Think Mel Brooks meets Monty Python while keeping all the balls in the air. There’s Meredith (Ann Brodnax) an over-the-hill diva who desperately wants the part of the ingenue in The Sound of Music. The ingenue, Robyn (Naomi Bertha), who is cast as Medea, in a dress fitted out with exploding entrails. And calm, cool and collected Harriet (Eleanore Tapscott), a counterpoint to the angsty Robyn, who gets miscast in everything yet has the sassiest comeback lines to put everyone in their proper place. Mike offers the best description of Scott (Patrick Gallagher), the Wardrobe Master, “He knows the difference between purple and aubergine.”

Kirk Lambert (Jeff) and Eleanore Tapscott  (Photo/Fred Lash)

Thanks to a wonderfully lovable cast, Director Mike Donahue does a terrific job keeping the pace at breakneck speed in this outrageously funny farce that skewers anyone who has ever put on a show, experienced prop mayhem, or bolloxed up the sound cues with a nod to Charles Dragonette and Jenya Holbert for the wacky set design. Cheers to all actors and backstage crew who love the theater life and are celebrated in this madcap spoof.

See it for a hundred laughs.

Lighting Design by Ken and Patti Crowley; Sound Design by Janice Rivera; Costume Design by Robbie Snow and Ali Zaikouk.

Paul Donahoe (Vondo), Teresa Preston (Jeannie), John Paul Odie (Mike), and Eleanore Tapscott (Harriet) (Photo/Fred Lash)

Through September 30th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-5778 or visit

Freaky Friday – The Musical – A Solid Winner at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Freaky Friday – The Musical – A Solid Winner at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Freaky Friday
The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Jordan Wright
July 26, 2023
Special to The Zebra

(L-R) Sofia Cruz and Kristina Friedgen. (Photo/Matt Liptak)

Having seen and loved Disney’s Freaky Friday when it premiered at Signature Theatre seven years ago in its debut from film-to-stage production, I have been beside myself to revisit this wonderful musical collaboration between composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Brian Yorkey. Kitt, best known for his scores of If/Then, Next to Normal, SpongeBob SquarePants and Jagged Little Pill draws from a panoply of musical themes and rhythms to create indelibly catchy tunes – the kind you find yourself humming all the way home. Yorkey partnered with Kitt on Next to Normal and If/Then and both men are stalwarts of the Broadway musical scene. Blessed by top-notch crew and cream-of-the-crop local talent, Director Joanna Henry has made the best of this engaging and heartwarming musical.

The bizarro premise of a mother and daughter switching roles for one day after an accident with an hourglass may be familiar to those of you who recall the movie that opened in 1976. Based on the novel by Mary Rodgers, it starred the adorable Jody Foster as the daughter and Barbara Harris as her mother.  A later version in 2003 had the ever-talented Jaimie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan as the mother/daughter duo.

Patrick Byrns, Luke Martin, Joshua Mutterperl, Tucker Eskew, Michelle Stein, Kai Avila, Hannah Taylor, Eileen Parks and Sofia Cruz. (Photo/Matt Liptak)

Single-mom-with-issues Katherine (Kristina Friedgen) and her feisty daughter Ellie (Sofia Cruz) magically switch roles for a day. Katherine, who is about to marry the adoring Mike (Paul Caffrey) wants to shed the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting an angsty teen, and Ellie has had it with the restrictions and emotional upheavals of being a high schooler with a helicopter mom. When the roles are switched and Katherine takes Ellie’s place, she experiences the day-to-day bullying and body shaming her daughter endures and Ellie sees the daily grind of running a catering business while raising two kids without a father.

Tucker Eskew, Patrick Byrns, Kai Avila, Luke Martin, Sofia Cruz, Naja Bates and Eileen Parks. (Photo/Matt Liptak)

Eighteen glorious numbers, backed by Conductor Christopher A. Tomasino’s sixteen-piece band, fill the two acts, giving us a diverse score of touching ballads, 50’s rock styles and Latin beats sung by a cast with big, expressive voices. Stefan Sittig’s choreography is seamless even with a couple dozen actors on stage at the same time. It’s a massive cast who morph into their quirky roles with aplomb. Shining above all others is Sofia Cruz who manages not only to inhabit her role as if born to it, but Kristina Friedgen who brings both sweet emotion and the manic desperation of a mom at her wit’s end. In the same category of excellence is Lourdes Turnblom as Katherine’s Catering Assistant, Torrey, who dials up the wit’s end confusion while trying to decipher why Katherine is acting like a child and Ellie is bossing her around. And endearing as heck is Joshua Mutterperl as Adam, the high school cutie and scavenger hunt list master with a secret crush on Ellie – or is it for her mom’s sandwiches?

It’s everything we want from musical theater – laughs, beautifully sung, funny or meaningful tunes, and characters you can relate to. Special kudos to Costume Designers, Judy Whelihan and Robin Worthington, who perfectly capture the funky-cool energy of teen styles and grown-up outfits.

Highly recommended.

Kiril French and Kristina Friedgen. (Photo/Matt Liptak)

With James Campione or Kiril French as Fletcher Blake; Naja Bates or Eileen Parks as Savannah; Peter Fannon as Grandpa Gordon/Mr. Blumen/Parker’s Dad/Señor O’Brien/Security Guard; Brandy Reece as Grandma Helene/Gretchen’s Mom/Mrs. Luckenbill/Mrs. Time; Brenda Parker as Catering Staff/Danielle/Savannah’s Mom/Ms. Meyers/Officer Sitz; Michelle Stein as Hannah; Hannah Taylor as Gretchen; Patrick Byrns as Catering Staff/Louis; Tucker Eskew as Catering Staff/Student; Lourdes Turnblom as Torrey/Adam’s Mom; Eileen Parks as Florist/Laurel/Catering Staff; Luke Martin as Student/Fish Vendor/Dr. Ehrin/Pastor Bruno/Well’s Dad/Officer Kowalski; Kai Avila as Catering Staff/Wells.

Book by Bridget Carpenter; Hair and Makeup by Natalie Turkevich; Lighting by JK Lighting (Jeffery Scott Auerbach and Kimberly Crago); Sound Design by Alan Wray; Set Design by Myke Taister; Dance Captain Eileen Parks.

Through August 12th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-5778 or visit

High Jinks and Hilarity with an All-Black Cast in The Nacirema Society at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

High Jinks and Hilarity with an All-Black Cast in The Nacirema Society at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
June 6, 2023
Special to The Zebra

(L to R): Jacquel Tomlin, Robin Lynn Reaves (Photo by Matt Liptak)

When scandal hits the Nacirema Society’s celebratory year of presenting debutantes at their posh ball in Montgomery Alabama, all hell breaks loose in this prim and proper world of Black high society. To the mannerly matrons even the slightest whiff of unsavory behavior is utterly unspeakable. The society’s creed is “Honor, Chastity and Truth” and it will prove to be this august society’s undoing if word gets out that there’s been a breach in all three categories. As the program tells us it’s “a glamorous world where folks still dress for dinner and strong-willed grandmothers work behind the scenes” as the ladies’ social club is determined to keep social standards up to snuff at the height of the civil rights era.

Gracie (Selina Tom-Johnson), granddaughter of the society’s grande dame, Grace (Lisa Hill-Corley), knows she’s expected to attend HBCU Fisk College and follow in the family tradition, but that’s not what the delightfully independent budding author Gracie has in mind. She’s determined to pursue a writer’s bohemian life in New York City and her mother, Marie (Kellie Santos DeJesus), is sworn to secrecy so as not to upset Grace’s high-minded plans.

(L to R): Selina Tom-Johnson, Jummy Lash (Photo by Matt Liptak)

The play reads like a TV sit-com (in the best way) as the story unfolds to reveal a blackmail plot and the scandal of an extra-marital affair between the late Dr. Dunbar and the family’s former housekeeper, Alpha Campbell Jackson (Jacquel R. Tomlin), who intends to soak Grace for the dough to underwrite her daughter, Lillie’s (Jummy Lash) college dreams to become a doctor.

But when the New York Times announces the engagement of Gracie to Bobby Green (Evin Howell), a handsome young doctor and Gracie’s childhood playmate, Gracie must do her best to squelch the story and keep secret the romance between Bobby and Lillie.

The shiniest character is Catherine Adams Green (Robin Lynn Reaves, veteran actor in a number of our top local theater productions), best friend to Grace and Bobby’s addlepated mother who gets in over her head when she is asked to secretly broker the sub rosa deal with Alpha before it reaches the ears of New York Times reporter Janet Logan (Kamilah Lawson). Janet’s arrived to report on the historic cotillion and is a guest on Grace’s well-staffed home. Keeping the deal on the down low from Janet triggers a whole host of shenanigans from the ladies and leading to a ton of laughs from the audience.

(L to R): Robin Lynn Reaves, Lisa Hill-Corley (Photo by Matt Liptak)

The all-Black cast keeps it light and breezy amid the high jinks and hilarity of what is expected to be an auspicious event for the Nacirema Society (which by the way spells America backwards). There’s even a soupçon of mystery as family secrets are revealed in this very American drawing room comedy. A good bit of sherry-sipping rounds out the sharp edges of the family dynamic and soon we’re caught up in all the sparkly silliness.

Handily directed by Eleanor Tapscott, writer Pearl Cleage’s convolutedly clever comedy comes alive. It’s a treat for LTA to have selected this work by Cleage who gave us Blues for an Alabama Sky and the New York Times best seller, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day.

With Barbara Cooper as Jessie Roberts.

Assistant Director, Aracely Ode; Lighting Design by JK Lighting DesignJeffrey Scott Auerbach and Kimberly Crago; Costume Design by Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley; Sets by Ken Brown and Peter Mumford; Sound Design by Dr. Victoria Brown and Ruben Vellekoop.

Front Row (L to R): Jummy Lash, Jacquel Tomlin, Lisa Hill-Corley, Selina Tom-Johnson
Back Row (L to R): Barbara Cooper, Tiffany Morina, Kamilah Lawson, Kellie Santos-DeJesus, Juanisha Brooks, Robin Lynn Reaves, Evin Howell (Photo by Matt Liptak)

The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First 100 Years through June 24th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets and information visit or call the box office at 703 683-0496.

The Little Theatre of Alexandria – In Our Midst

The Little Theatre of Alexandria Profile

Jordan Wright
May 21, 2023
In Our Midst – The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Special to The Zebra

In celebration of its 90th anniversary the beloved The Little Theatre of Alexandria has quite a story to tell. With a lengthy history of presenting everything from emotional dramas, Broadway musicals and rom-coms to farce, historical epics and snappy British humor, over the decades the theater has given its audiences a wide range of top-notch entertainment to choose from. This year alone the theater earned a whopping 58 nominations from the Washington Area Theater Community Honors (WATCH Awards). With the help of the theater’s historian Kim Smith-Salmon and LTA President Frank Shutts, we dug into the archives to reveal the history of the small yet mighty theater that continues to provide an extraordinary contribution to the arts in Alexandria.

Hairspray at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Inspired by a community theater in Lynchburg, VA, Alexandria resident Mary Lindsey mounted LTA’s first production in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression by inviting a drama group through St. Paul’s Church. Formerly known as the “Peacock Players”, the 200-person strong membership met several times at Gadsby’s Tavern to plan for three one-act plays. The following year they incorporated as The Little Theatre of Alexandria premiering with Holiday by Phillip Barry which was performed at The Lyceum Hall for two consecutive nights. The Lyceum was to become the primary staging point for the theatre at this time. For the rest of the first year, one-act plays were interspersed with full-length plays, some recent Broadway hits.

Before tickets were sold to the public, attendees were members and productions were initially held in the Lyceum. In those early years the LTA mounted productions in Gadsby’s Tavern, Carlyle House and during the war years at the Alexandria Cameron Street USO Center. In 1957 the Alexandria City Council granted the group a lease of property at the corner of Wolfe and St. Asaph Streets to construct a permanent structure. Legend has it that the beautiful wrought iron gates that enclose the garden courtyard are from either the Truman White House or Old Executive Building – a mystery the theater is currently researching.

In November 1960 ground was officially broken on the structure – once a vacant lot used by neighborhood children for pick-up games of softball and kickball – and the first performance in the new permanent building at 600 Wolfe Street took place in November 1961 with Send Me No Flowers. In 1960, LTA produced its first musical The Boyfriend, opening the door to over 60 years of musicals and plays at the new location.

Avenue Q at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

The first presidential visit was President Harry Truman and his wife, Bess, who came to see the Gadsby’s Tavern production in 1947. Not only was this the first time a US President had visited LTA, but the first time a US President had been to Gadsby’s Tavern since Andrew Jackson. The Little Theatre of Alexandria has been visited more recently by First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush as well as President George Bush when daughter-in-law Margaret Bush performed in Neil Simon’s Proposals in the fall of 2001. Older members recall regular visits from President Truman, and Lady Bird Johnson serving punch during intermissions. Numerous senators and congressmen including John Warner and Mark Warner have been spotted in the audience as well as former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. The biggest surprise may have been when in 1939 Thornton Wilder attended a production of his play Our Town.

Ragtime at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Over the years a number of actors went on to enjoy successful careers in theater including Marcia Gay Harden who appeared at LTA in 1982 in Neil Simon’s I Ought to be in Pictures, Dermont Mulroney who took classes at LTA when his mother was a member. TV actor Steve O’Connor took classes and appeared in several shows. Calvin Remsburg went onto a professional career in the theater and actors like Tom Wiggin have appeared in national soaps. Currently, LTA is represented on Broadway in The Life of Pi by actress Salma Qarnain who appeared in LTA’s 2000 production of Hair. One Washington Post reviewer referred to the theater as “the Kennedy Center of Community theaters without the obvious trappings.”

The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years will open on June 3rd and run through June 24th. For tickets and information visit or call the box office at 703 683-0496.

Sister Act Wows ‘Em at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Sister Act Wows ‘Em at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Sister Act
The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Jordan Wright
January 18, 2023
Special to The Zebra

Nun ensemble and Deloris (Ashley Williams)
Deloris inspires the nuns to raise their voices (Photo/Matthew Randall)

When a club singer witnesses a murder committed by her gangster boyfriend, she is forced to go on the run rather than be murdered herself. Deloris Van Cartier (Ashley Williams) is a bougie-cool, flashy diva, used to struttin’ her stuff and havin’ her way… but not this time. Through videos, Director Mike J. Baker Jr. (more on him later) shows her racing through familiar Old Town locales, including dodging out the iconic wrought iron gates of this very theater, until she is delivered to the doors of the Queen of Angels convent in South Philly and into the reluctant arms of its strict Mother Superior (Christine Maxted).

When I saw 25 scenes listed in the program, I was floored. How will they achieve so many scene changes? It can’t be done. Yet, through the use of a full-stage scrim with a 4Wall rear projector, combined with Switcher and VMIX technology, the miracle of transporting the audience from the cloisters of the cathedral (actually both interior and exterior stills of Alexandria’s St. Mary’s Church) to street scenes, a seedy bar, a police station and animated backgrounds to reflect a disco, all converge seamlessly to achieve what one would think utterly impossible. This sophisticated, mixed media technology is down to director Baker, whose background at Bravo and productions with the National Arts affords him the experience and knowhow to pull it off. “Everything I know about TV and theater went into Sister Act,” he told me.

Mother Superior (Christine Maxted), Monsignor (Peter Fannon), Deloris (Ashley Williams) Confessions for Mother Superior and Deloris (Photo/Matthew Randall)

Equally as exciting is Broadway-caliber Ashley Williams in the lead. Where has this actor/singer been, I wondered, wishing I were a theatrical agent. “Sign here, please!” I heard myself thinking. With an extraordinary, soulful and powerful voice that could be heard as far as King Street, and with acting chops to match, she had the entire audience in her thrall from the get-go. Williams’ voice was well matched by Maxted whose vocals were as pure and dulcet as Julie Andrews’. I would gladly have followed her across the Alps.

To say these two fabulous women were the biggest draw in this musical, would be to give short shrift to a tremendous cast who sang, danced and showed off their comic timing to a tee. Imagine 14 nuns, one Mother Superior, a Monsignor and Deloris all on stage at the same time and all in sync, then you’ll pretty much have the picture of a powerhouse show that will have you jumping out of your seat with the rest of the audience. Add a 20-piece orchestra conducted by Colin Taylor and cached behind the scrim to provide an exhilarating sound to back up this wonderful cast.

Deloris (Ashley Williams), Eddie (Alonzo Cook) Eddie explains there is no better protection than the Philadelphia police department (Photo/Matthew Randall)

The morning after opening night I received notice of this year’s WATCH Award nominations. LTA received 52 noms for their last season far more than any other community theater. Their eagerness to stage these big shows, their ability to seek out and find superb talent, as well as their professional production capabilities are reflected in not only this tremendous show, but also in their entire season to date.

Highly recommended. If I gave out stars, which I do not, they’d have five stars in a neat row.

Mother Superior (Christine Maxted) contemplating why her prayers go unaswered (Photo/Matthew Randall)

With Odette Gutierrez del Arroyo as Michelle and Paola; Jenni Philp as Tina; Paul Caffrey as Curtis; Luke Martin as Ernie; Evan Zimmerman as Joey; Alonzo Cook as Eddie; Allison Meyer as Sister Mary Robert; Gina Tune as Sister Mary Patrick; Jennifer Reynolds as Sister Mary Lazarus; Margaret McGarry as Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours; Jennifer Levy as Sister Mary Theresa; Peter Fannon as Monsignor O’Hara; and Sandy Kozel as News Reporter.

Including an ensemble with Gifty Amponsem, Claire Aziza, Maria Ciarrocchi, Aja Goode, Julianna Laseter, James Miller, Josie Morgan, Bob Thompson, Lourdes Turnblom and David Valderrama.

Produced by Kadira Coley and Alan Wray; Set Design by Julie Fischer, Lighting Design by Ken and Patti Crowley; Sound Design by David Correia; Costume Design by Jean Schlicting and Kit Sibley.

Design for Murder is a Crafty, Clever, Comedic Nailbiter

Design for Murder is a Crafty, Clever, Comedic Nailbiter

The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Jordan Wright
October 19, 2022
Special to The Zebra

Erin Gallalee (Martha), James Lorenzin (David), Kathy Ohlhaber (Celia) (Photo/Brian Knapp Photography)

If you’re looking for a whodunit – something crafty, clever and comedic – look no further than Design for Murder. It’s got all the elements necessary to curdle your blood and engage your brain. This nifty mystery has more twists and turns and schools of red herrings than you can count. In fact, no matter who you think is doing the killing, you will undoubtedly be mistaken because it takes until the final scene before all is revealed. It’s a nailbiter on steroids.

Mourning her late husband, is Celia Granger (Kathy Ohlhaber), an elegant châtelaine whose drawing room is center stage for all the chaos. The first to be knocked off is Kathy (Elizabeth Loyal), a flirty maid who is having a fling with David Granger (James Lorenzin), Celia’s son and scion to the family fortune, or what’s left of it. We never meet Eunice, David’s fiancé, a Southern belle with buckets of dough and whom he refuses to marry – much to the dismay of his dear, sweet mother who’s counting on all that cash to bail them out. Louisa Cortlandt (Janice Zucker), Celia’s gal pal and astrology dabbler, has her own kooky opinions which are taken quite seriously because she’s married to a judge which gives the doddering old lady credibility plus favored social standing. Martha Brand (Erin Gallalee), Celia’s sister, mocks the septuagenarian, but all defer to her vaunted status in a town where keeping up appearances is de rigeur.

Elizabeth Loyal (Kathy) and James Lorenzin (David) (Photo/Brian Knapp Photography)

We are soon introduced to Carlin (Brendan Chaney), the chauffeur and terminal Lothario who pitches woo to every woman in the household including the aged housekeeper, Mrs. Hamilton (Patricia Spencer Smith). Maybe he’s just sharpening his chauvinistic skills for the next maid, Nora Taylor (Pete Leggett), a pretty little waif (too pretty according to Celia) who appeals to the Grangers’ sympathy and begs for the job after it’s vacated by Kathy’s untimely demise. For Chrissake! Who would want to work there? Don’t answer that.

Everyone’s a suspect and motives seem to pop out of the woodwork at the old Hudson Valley estate. Enter Detective Carlin (Brendan Chaney), an ersatz Columbo, replete with trench coat and questions for Celia, a woman he knew and secretly loved when she was a girl. Carlin’s on the case like a bloodhound, but will he get to the bottom of it with this hodgepodge of addled suspects? Wait and see. Though it’s a wonder anything gets sorted in a house where brandy is consumed for every shocking revelation.

Janice Zucker (Louisa), Pete Leggett (Nora), Erin Gallalee (Martha) (Photo/Brian Knapp Photography)

Director Jessie Roberts has assembled a fine cast who mesh beautifully with one another, leading the ever-heightening suspense to its ultimate denouément. Especially outstanding are Kathy Ohlhaber, Patricia Spencer Smith, Pete Leggett and Brendan Chaney.

Additional cast member, Frank Cooper.

Produced by Carol Strachan with Hilary Adams as Assistant Producer; Fight Choreography by Stefan Sittig; Set Design by Julie Fischer; Lighting Design by Cleo Potter and Jay Stein; Costume Design by Judy Whelihan.

Kathy Ohlhaber (Celia), Patricia Spencer Smith (Mrs Hamilton) (Photo/Brian Knapp Photography)

Through November 5th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets and information visit or call the box office at 703 683-0496.