From Oct. 29 through Nov. 23, The Art Theater of Davis will present Noël Coward’s English play Hay Fever. The play marks the fledgling theatre company’s third production and first comedy.
The 1927 English comedy follows a weekend with the Bliss family, a group of eccentric bohemians who prove to be nightmarish hosts to their bourgeois guests.
Timothy Nutter, artistic director and founder of The Art Theater of Davis, said the play will be a departure from the company’s previous heavily dramatic productions. According to Nutter, his English heritage also played a role in choosing Hay Fever as the next production for his theatre company.
“Our first two plays were pretty heavy dramas, so to do something different, we chose a comedy,” Nutter said. “My family is English, so that played into it too. I just thought it’d be fun and that my family would like it if I did an English play once in a while.”
Hay Fever features a nine-person cast consisting of actors from all across the Sacramento region. Nutter expressed his excitement about the fact that the play is an ensemble piece that allows a lot of stagetime for everyone in the cast.
“It’s an ensemble piece in the sense that most of the roles are about the same size, so it isn’t dominated by one character,” Nutter said. “I think that’s helpful because it gives more people more chances to have something to do rather than just putting it on the shoulders of one person.”
Hay Fever also marks the company’s first untranslated production after its previous productions of translated German and Russian plays.
Although the company plans to take a classic approach to the play, Nutter said what distinguishes his production of Hay Fever from others is that he is using the original manuscript instead of the edited, licensed one. He said his goal isn’t to reinvent a classic play, but to allow the playwright’s original words to speak for itself.
Although The Art Theater of Davis has been able to work with a few UC Davis students in the past, Nutter encourages more students to participate in his productions.
“I hope the university community and our group can cross more. I’d love it,” Nutter said.
Lisa Halko, a longtime Davis resident, returns for her second production as the play’s lead, Judith Bliss, a retired actress and mother of the Bliss family. As a mother and former retired actress herself, Halko found the role closely resembled her real life, which made her part interesting to perform.
Several cast members expressed their excitement for opening night. However, Gayle Tominaga, who will be playing a ditzy flapper named Jackie Coryton, expressed her nervousness about trying to create a believable English accent onstage.
“I’ve never done accents; they’re actually my weak points,” Tominaga said. “That’s been the most work for me, but it’s getting better. If you don’t know it, you won’t notice.”
Sara Matsui-Colby, a West Sacramento resident, will play Myra Arundel, a character who is described in the play as “a vampire and a woman who uses sex as a shrimping net.” She said she looks forward to entertaining the Davis community on opening night.
“Say maybe someone’s having a bad day or something — hopefully they’ll come see the show and I can help them laugh and have a good time for a couple hours,” Matsui-Colby said. “That’s what I’m hoping for opening night.”
Hay Fever will be presented at Third Space at 946 Olive Drive from Oct. 29 through Nov. 23 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at arttheater.org/tickets-for-hay-fever.