Tickling Your Funny Jones

Tickling Your Funny Jones



The Sterling Playmakers rehearse a scene from "Tom Jones."

The Sterling Playmakers will present "Tom Jones" at Sterling Middle School, 201 West Holly Ave., Sterling. The show will run for two weekends, including two Sunday matinees, April 4-6 and April 12-13. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. All tickets are general admission, $12 each. Call 703-437-6117 or visit www.sterlingplaymakers.com. The shows director, Paul Rubenstein, answered the questions.

Explain the premise of the story:

Tom Jones, ward to Squire Allworthy, and Sophia are deeply in love, but her father has her engaged to Blifil. Madcap adventures ensue once their romance is discovered and Tom Jones is banished. On the way to London, many other characters get involved in these adventures with mistaken identities, witty repartee, the alarms and the happy escapes and escapades of young Tom Jones and his Sophia.

Why did you choose to direct this play?

"Harvey" was originally chosen to be presented in this slot, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to make a change. After considering several other possibilities, the Playmakers board and I selected "Tom Jones" for its humor, ability to encompass a large cast and its stage worthiness. While reading it for the first time, I was on the floor laughing hysterically at the possibilities, some of which I did use in staging the play. One of the things that I really like about Tom Jones is that it does not take itself seriously and presents itself for what it is — a rollicking good time.

What were some of the challenges when putting together the play?

The challenges were fairly typical for any play. From getting the cast and crew on board to securing everything that we need for the play, everything has been nearly typical as far as challenges are concerned. Right now, I'd say the biggest challenge is having everything 100 percent ready to go for opening night, but we are almost there!

What stands out the most about this production?

I would have to say the dedication that everyone has to making this show be one of the best out there. We have a wonderfully talented cast and crew who are working very hard to ensure that our audiences will thoroughly enjoy "Tom Jones." It has been a delight to work with everyone and I know that everyone who comes expecting to have a good time will do so.

What is your favorite character/most challenging role?

Well, I really cannot play favorites here as I like everyone's part. From Tom's innocence to Blifil's deviousness to Honour's willingness to please, all the characters have their individual charms and challenges. One of the biggest challenges was in ensuring that those who play more than one part truly differentiate between the characters and that they are not simply an extension of one another. We have several actors who play more than one role and we even have one who has taken on four, with each role quite distinct from the others. Everyone has risen to this challenge and while they may look similar, they certainly do not act that way!

What has been your favorite play-related moment, either on stage or backstage?

There are so many from which to choose. It would be really difficult to pick out just one. Some of the moments of brilliance have stemmed from happy accidents that have found their way into the action. I don't want to give them away, but one piece that just happened recently involves Sophia and Honour bringing a bench onto the stage. They had a hard time finding the spot to place the bench and it looked absolutely funny how they dealt with it. Suffice to say, that is now a part of the action. There are many other moments like this throughout. See if you can spot them!

Is there music involved in the play and if so, how does it affect the play? If no music, how does the lack of it change the mood of the play?

Tom Jones is not a musical, but we do have background music playing at certain points in the play. I think it is merely to enhance the play, much like background music heard in the movies. When we hear the screeching violins in "Psycho" in the famous shower scene, we know something bad is about to happen. The sound effects and snippets of music serve the same purpose — to give the audience some mood music.

Have you ever acted?

I have acted quite a bit. Ever since I moved to the area back in 2003, I have been involved in the theater scene in Northern Virginia. I have worked primarily with Vpstart Crow, appearing in several productions since November 2004, most notably as George in "Of Mice and Men." I have also made appearances onstage with 2nd Flight Productions, The Arlington Players, Springfield Community Theatre and Tapestry Theatre. My next project is with Castaways Repertory Theatre, performing in "Appointment at Dawn" for the NVTA One-Act Festival. Aside from acting and directing, I have also recently been named as co-artistic director for Vpstart Crow. Along with my day job as an English teacher at Fairfax High School, I run the Improv Club and coach the TheatreSports team.

What do you hope the audience will get out of it?

I hope the audience has fun. "Tom Jones" is light-hearted and always corrects itself when things start to get a bit dark. Everything will be OK and we want our guests to feel that will be the case as well when they leave the theater. Today may not be so great, but tomorrow is another day.

Have you worked with any of these actors before?

I have worked with some of the cast before, but primarily as an actor. I am grateful that they listen to me and allow me to share my vision with them and then translate it through their actions. This is true of the whole cast. I would be happy to be able to say that I've worked with all of them before in a future show!

What is the funniest line/situation in the play?

The one line that really has tickled my funny bone actually is a recurring line throughout the play in some form or another: "What need has a scullery maid for Greek and Latin?" There is just something about that particular line that strikes me as being funny. There are some situations that are absolutely hilarious in the play, but to reveal them here would ruin the effect. You'll see them and you'll understand why I don't want to let the cat out of the bag just yet (and no, that is not a hint!).