When announcing the slate for Starlighters 45th season, director Aimee Jones said audiences would be in for an emotional roller coaster.
“It’s definitely a show that will make you laugh and cry and touch you and make you think about life,” Jones said in November. “I don’t know how many times I’ve read the show because I can’t put the book down. It’s just so moving and motivating.”
Jones is so connected to the material, that even talking about the upcoming production made her slightly emotional.
“I’m kind of sad almost for it to be coming to an end,” she said.
Her connection with the material was imminent. Jones was unloading a box donated materials and putting them on the shelf of the Starlighters library in February of 2018 when she came across the play. She had never heard of it, but was immediately hooked on the humor that starts off the page.
The play takes place in the summer of 1953 recalling the final time the Hines family gathered at their Pocono retreat, under the watchful eye of housekeeper Clemma, played by Erica Toney. That character is the source of a lot of the humor in the play.
“I think Erica really punches on the funny lines,” Jones said. “She really does find the humor behind the character. But also shows a loving, motherly side to Josie.”
While she connected eventually to the rest of the characters, the Hines’ daughter Josie (Emily Burds) and her relationship with her parents was another source of connection for Jones. During the audition process, Burds was exactly what Jones pictured in that role.
“When I was reading the script, I’d close my eyes and picture what was going on and who was playing who,” Jones said. “From her look, to her voice, to just her overall presence, it reminds me of Josie.”
Jones said it was nice to have Burds back after an absence from the Starlighters stage.
The play follows a series of “romantic entanglements that coalesce one idyllic afternoon.” The cast is rounded out by Burt Hines, played by John Crosheck, is in is mid-50’s fresh off his second heart attack and awaits the arrival of his ex-wife, Annie played by Kathryn Williams, that he still has feelings for. Josie has recently broken off her engagement to Harvard law student, Kenny (Steven Clemmons), and has shifted her attention to his friend Ray, played by Jacob Glass. Ray is an aspiring writer that has a past with Josie.
The cast is rounded out by Miami gangster Vinnie, played by Matt English, beautiful but dimwitted model Sammi, played by Angel Pulaski and Clemma’s husband Lewis, played by Darby Washington.
The themes of the story are universal and Jones said there’s something everyone will connect with, especially the central theme of forgiveness.
The play opens Friday, Sept. 20, with additional shows on the 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 28th and 29th. The cost of admission is $16 for adults and $15 for students and senior citizens. Tickets are available at the box office for in-person ordering or by calling 319-462-4793. Tickets for the show are available now at starlighters.org/proposals.