Gregory and Club are exploring laughs in Lone Tree

Stephanie Cozart and Sam Gregory in 'The Explorer's Club.' Photo by Danny Lam.
Stephanie Cozart and Sam Gregory in ‘The Explorers Club.’ Photo by Danny Lam.

Before popular actor Sam Gregory gets his hands anywhere close to Ebenezer Scrooge’s cold hard cash and even frostier heart, he and some old friends from the Denver Center will be exploring some very different dramatic territory in Lone Tree.

Gregory is playing Lucius in the Lone Tree Arts Center’s The Explorers Club, the Colorado premiere of a silly Victorian play that has been described as George Bernard Shaw meets Monty Python. Gregory likens it to The 39 Steps meets A Flea in Her Ear, referencing two previous DCPA performances.

“It really is just a good-time comedy,” Gregory said. “When people say, ‘Why can’t I just go to the theatre and have a good time?’ Well, this is your opportunity. It’s just funny, funny, funny.”

Sam Gregory Gregory is a veteran of more than 40 plays for the DCPA Theatre Company. Last month, it was announced that after DCPA’s 2015 production of A Christmas Carol, veteran Scrooge Philip Pleasants will step down after 11 years of humbuggery. Gregory will serve as Pleasants’ understudy this December and then assume the role of Scrooge in subsequent seasons.

“Oh, who am I kidding? Gregory said. “Phil Pleasants is the Peyton Manning of Scrooges. How does anyone follow him?”

In the meantime, The Explorers Club will feel a lot like a Denver Center offering given that Gregory has worked alongside most of the cast and crew for two decades at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The list of familiar names includes Randy Moore, Stephanie Cozart, Erik Sandvold, Mark Rubald, Colin Alexander and Brad Bellamy. The costume designer is DCPA Costume Crafts Designer Kevin Copenhaver, who has been with the company for 24 years. The stage manager is Lyle Raper, who served as the DCPA’s production stage manager from 1983 through 2010 and recently returned for Jackie & Me.

“It has been like a reunion of best friends,” Gregory said. “And a great reminder of how wonderful these actors are.”

Rounding out the cast are Rob Costigan and Christopher Joel Onken.

The Explorers Club is directed by one of the most integral figures in the Denver Center’s creative history. Tony-nominated Randal Myler has directed 40 Theatre Company productions, including seminal productions of It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, Purlie, The Immigrant, Side Man, Sylvia and original musical tributes to Janis Joplin, John Denver, Nat King Cole and Hank Williams. His production of Peter Pan starred a young John Cameron Mitchell, who would go on to write and star in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

These days, Myler directs about once a year at the Lone Tree Arts Center, located about 20 miles south of downtown. Here, he will be turning some of the most respected actors in Denver theatre history into a menagerie of goofballs.

“This job was a gift from the gods,” Gregory said. “Randy just assembled a crew of people he thought would be funny together and that he would like to spend a couple of weeks with.”

They are spending a couple of weeks in 1879 London telling the supremely silly saga of a group of men who are members of a prestigious explorers club that is in crisis: Their acting president, played by Gregory, wants to admit a woman, played by Cozart … and their bartender is the worst in Britain.

“This woman has discovered an entire lost city called Pahatlabong, and she is going to present her discovery to Queen Victoria the next day,” Gregory said. “This is a major scientific achievement, and so my character believes she must be a member,” even though that might very well shake the very foundation of the British Empire.

Gregory, we should clarify, is playing a nebbish botanist, a 50-year-old virgin (take that, Steve Carell) who is very much in love with Phyllida (Cozart).

They are surrounded by a guinea-pig experimenter, a snake specialist, a scientific Biblical scholar, a mad assassin, a homicidal monk and a Pahatlabong native who is painted entirely blue. And then there’s Moore, who is convinced that one of the lost tribes of Israel (Dan) off and went to Ireland. “He addresses the Irish Society to tell them that they are actually Jewish and that they must move to Palestine,” Gregory said.

If you followed none of that, he added, “The plot is incidental to the joy of the play.”

Cozart may be the only woman on stage, Gregory said, “but she more than holds her own. She may be small of stature, but she is strong of spirit and will.”

And, for the first time onstage together – he kisses her. “I have been waiting for this since I met her in 1995,” he said.

Gregory has taught a “comedy college” course for the DCPA’s Education wing, “and I am pretty convinced every type of comedy is represented in this play,” he said. “There is situational humor, physical comedy, running gags and verbal puns.”

 But above all, he likens it to a farce.

“(Director and playwright) Nagle Jackson used to tell us that if you take a normal situation and times it by 10, then you have farce,” he said.

“We have a farce.”

Lone Tree Arts Center's 'The Explorer's Club.' Photo by Danny Lam.From left: Sam Gregory, Brad Bellamy (on floor), Mark Rubald, Rob Costigan (kneeling) and Christopher Joel Onken in Lone Tree Arts Center’s ‘The Explorers Club.’ Photo by Danny Lam.

The Explorers Club: Ticket information

  • Presented by the Lone Tree Arts Center
  • 10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue
  • 720-509-1000 or lonetreeartscenter.org

     

    Remaining performances:

  • Friday, Oct. 16 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 17 at 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 18 at 1:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 1:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 23 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 24 at 8 p.m.

 

How you many know them:

  • Colin Alexander will return to the DCPA in December for A Christmas Carol
  • Brad Bellamy’s DCPA credits include Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Mama Hated Diesels
  • Stephanie Cozart has 24 DCPA credits including Arcadia, Sylvia and The Miser, and she will return in December for A Christmas Carol
  • Sam Gregory most recently starred in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. He will assume the role of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol starting in 2016.
  • Randy Moore came to the DCPA in 1995 and his long list of credits includes playing Polonius in Hamlet and Scrooge in A Christmas Carol)
  • Mark Rubald: DCPA credits include Dinner With Friends, Lonesome West, Servant of Two Masters, Gross Indecency, Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya
  • Erik Sandvold has nine DCPA credits including Well, Plainsong, The Pillowman and The Skin of Our Teeth

    Also featuring:

  • Rob Costigan
  • Christopher Joel Onken

OUR COMPLETE LIST OF OCTOBER THEATRE OPTIONS IN COLORADO

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