Kevin Heath, co-founder of Limelight Actors Theater in Gilroy, had an interesting experience when he requested scripts of Terrence McNally’s “It’s Only a Play” from publisher Samuel French.
There are two versions of the play, McNally’s original 1982 script and an updated and revised script that opened on Broadway in 2014, starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally, Stockard Channing and F. Murray Abraham.
“I thought wow, if all these people got together…. I’ve got to read this script,” said Heath. But when he called Samuel French to see about getting the Broadway script, he was told they’d have to sell all their copies of the old script first.
“How many do I have to buy?” Heath quipped.
He didn’t have to go that far, but he was also surprised that the new script had cut a role he’d already discussed with an actor he was thinking of casting.
(The actor had to back out due to family obligations.)
“It’s Only a Play” is a bit of a theater insider’s show, as a group of theater people await the opening night reviews of a new play. The Limelight production will star Jason Harris as the play-within-a-play’s playwright, Peter Mandel as Harris’s best friend, Rachel Perry as a novice producer, Rosalind Farotte as the diva, Bruce Pember as the director, Michael Johnson as a drama critic and Gannon Janisch as a coat check attendant.
Heath, who is directing the show, said he laughed all the way through his first reading of the script, but he did wonder, “If I’m not a theater person, will I get it?”
“With the exception of some of the playwrights (named in the script), everyone’s going to know the names,” he said. “It’s a quality script. We love comedies, but it’s not the only thing we do. When I pick a comedy, I try to pick what I call an intelligent comedy. I think that’s important. My favorite show is a show that will make you laugh and cry.”
The cast includes some newcomers to the Limelight troupe. Johnson has served as musical director for recent shows at Limelight, including “Always… Patsy Cline” and “Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney Musical,” but “It’s Only a Play” will mark his acting debut.
Mandel, president of the South Valley Civic Theatre board and frequently seen in SVCT productions in Morgan Hill, has been on Heath’s radar for some time.
“He embodies Woody Allen, the humor of Woody Allen,” said Heath.
And the show is Janisch’s debut in an all-adult cast. He’s 15.
The show also has “a little cameo for a dog,” said Heath. “There’s a whole dog gag running throughout the show,” he said.
“It’s Only a Play” by Terrence McNally. Limelight Actors Theater. Performances Sept. 7-29 at Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St, Gilroy. Tickets $25, $22 seniors. 408.472.3292; limelightactorstheater.com.