No Refund Theatre Presents: ‘Leading Ladies’

No Refund Theatre returns with the second production of the fall season. This week, the organization presents “Leading Ladies.”

Written by Ken Ludwig and directed by seniors Lizzy Scipione and Alison Shifflett, Leading Ladies tells the story of Jack Gable and Leo Clark, two Shakespearean actors left unlucky by the changing climate of the modern theater industry.

Set in Pennsylvania in 1958, the story of Gable and Clark clashes against the mundane lives of young Meg and Reverend Duncan, a couple left unsatisfied by their strained engagement. After a long-winded flop era wearing on their egos and wallets, the acting duo of Gable and Clark catches wind that Meg’s old Aunt Florence has died, leaving a $3 million fortune behind.

With sneaky plans to steal the money by posing as the old woman’s long-lost nephews, Max and Steve, Gable and Clark set out to York, Pennsylvania, in character. However, the dynamic duo (and audience of Forum 111) is in for a surprise when it’s revealed that the long-lost relatives are in fact long-lost nieces, Maxine and Stephanie.

At the convincing of Gable, Clark reluctantly agrees to continue the scheme by cosplaying as the girls. Dressing up in old costumes from their failing acting careers, Gable and Clark meet Meg and much to their surprise, Aunt Florence, still feisty on life’s last legs.

Discovering something very different from the lavish lifestyle promised by inheriting the stolen fortune, the duo sticks to their disastrous script, doubling down on the pursuit. As they face much more than the $3 million accounted for, a clear theme emerges — while we may spend our lives working for dollars and dimes, it’s the love found along the way that is truly priceless.

When planning the second show of the season, directors Lizzy Scipione and Alison Shifflett relied on a clear game plan to accommodate the short production schedule, which was working together as directing duo.

“My freshman year, we were actually co-assistant directors for MAIDS 2019: A Light In the Darkness, and that really started off our directing career together,” Shifflett said. “It’s been a dream. She’s my best friend, and I’m truly honored to get to work with her again.”

“Since then, it’s been really easy for us to work together,” Scipione said. “I value her as a friend so much. Her work ethic is just incredible, and we balance each other out so well.”

Bringing the script to life, the team crafted a detailed set designed to make one feel as though they truly are sitting in Aunt Florence’s 1958 Victorian-chic home. Costuming also plays a major role in setting the scene, as cast members wear multiple outfits all designed by assistant director and second-year student Angelina Smith.

“The fact that I got a chance to have complete creative freedom and that they trusted me in that way was really lovely,” Smith said. “They gave me a lot of chances to grow and make the most of being an AD for the first time.”

Providing leadership opportunities within the process, the directors prioritized warmness and a welcoming environment for the cast. Second-year student and cast member, Jude Musolino, elaborated on his experience working on this first production as a new member of the club.

“This is my first NRT show, and it was cool learning about all the things NRT does, and how they run,” Musolino said. “It’s definitely a great environment…. Everybody from all walks of life come in.”

Similar sentiments were shared by second-year student Hannah Recchiuti-Quier, who plays Aunt Florence in the play. In portraying a comedically-demanding character, Recchiuti-Quier drew upon the comfortability provided by the directing team.

“They made it really welcoming,” she said. “I want to keep doing NRT because of them.”

The cast also hosts NRT veterans, including third-year student Jonathan Yourchak. Within this diversity of experience, the uniqueness of the group added energy to the process.

“I’ve never worked with a cast like this before,” Yourchak said. “I feel like there hasn’t been a rehearsal where I haven’t laughed.”

Building upon this notion, second-year student Quintin Sulkowski shared another value of having both new and old members involved.

“All of the cast is very talented,” Sulkowski said. “But every person brings something different to the show.”

Acting within a valued cast, fourth-year student Kelly McGarrey elaborated on the plight of her character. As the lead role, young, ingenue Meg was engaged to a gold-digging, older gentleman. McGarrey explained the timid nature of Meg’s story in the show.

“She hasn’t really done much yet in her life,” said McGarrey. “She really wants to travel, to act, and to do great things, but her fiancé and her circumstances aren’t letting her.”

As Meg eventually breaks free to find true love in the show, the male lead of Leo Clark also tells a story of self-discovery. While beginning the production as a man only after money, this male protagonist ends as an individual valuing relationships over financial statements. In this sense, life also imitates art in a clear sense, as real-life couple Donohue and McGarrey play love interests onstage.

“It is super fun to be able to come here every night and play a character with her, spending time doing something that we both love,” Donohue said.

Playing interactive roles within this comedy, the cast enjoyed the process and worked as friends to play up the light-hearted feel of the script.

“It’s nice to not have to tap into anything too serious,” said second-year student Laura Spohn. “It’s nice to play a role that’s not too serious, just so light and so fun.”

Echoing these themes, cast member Ian Dargitz summarized the time spent working on the play.

“It’s a very authentic community theatre experience,” Dargitz said.

Prioritizing warmth within the fun-loving script, director Lizzy Scipione shared a final hope for their last directing endeavor before graduation.

“It’s been a joy to cast people I love, and I hope they are as proud of themselves as I am,” they said.

“Leading Ladies” will play at 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 22; Friday, September 23; and Saturday, September 24, in Forum 111. A content warning is emphasized for adult content and language.

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a senior majoring in Marketing and Psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 19-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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