Cherie Messore Previews

First Look: ‘Annapurna’ at New Phoenix Theatre

Michael Lodick left a legacy to Buffalo’s theatre community in many ways. Before he passed away last year, he added another regional premiere to the New Phoenix Theatre season.

“Annapurna,” the dramedy by Sharr White, opens on Friday, April 26. Lodick selected the show and cast it before his untimely death, and was to direct it, too. “He was such an eclectic, eccentric and weird person,” said his friend and New Phoenix executive director Richard Lambert. “It’s his good instincts and his seeing out what isn’t readily available or popular, with an eye toward making something popular and understandable. That was him.” This season is dedicated to Lodick’s memory.

Lodick cast Lisa Ludwig and John Profeta for the two-person cast: Terry Kimmel will direct. “Megan Mullalley played the role on Broadway ,” Lambert said. “Lisa is perfect for this. She’s acerbic yet sweet and funny, exactly right.”

“Annapurna” is the story of a couple, 20 years divorced. The wife comes back to challenge her husband and to discuss their child who he hasn’t seen in 20 years.  The couple has to come to terms with their past in order to move on. Lambert says the show is quite dark and actually very funny.

Putting this show in this season and the carefully selected cast – always a challenge for a two-hander that’s dialogue-heavy – has Lodick’s handprint all over it.  When it comes to casting a show, Lodick’s instincts and choices were solid, even though it’s speculative art. Lambert said, “You rely on other people’s talents to make it a draw.   It’s always a crapshoot when you’re putting a season together. “

In “Annapurna,” it’s the force of personality in the characters that build the story. It’s a plot based on their interaction as a family 20 years ago, with unresolved conflict. Lambert said, “Both characters have a heart. They’re articulate and smart and caring, and they had their past differences. Now their present situation is different.”

In the end, it’s a leap of faith – along with trusting your gut and knowing your audience – that the show and casting you select will deliver the production you expect. “Every element of the theatre is a gift, “ said Lambert. “You’re lucky to cast a play and find the cast and the director that makes it work. It’s a lot of baby gifts wrapped up in a big box.”

But Lambert paused as he reflected on the work that Lodick prepared for this season and “Annapurna” in particular, and said, “But I think this one is going to work.”

“Annapurna” opens April 26 and runs over four weekends to May 18. Visit www.newphoenixtheatre.org for details and tickets.