Contrary to popular belief, the Hamptons do not turn into a pumpkin and disappear the day after Labor Day. Sure, celebrities bail and summer shares clear out, but the residents are still residing—and often looking for arts and entertainment. Among their options is the Hampton Theatre Company, now in its 27th season of mixing time-tested comedies, dramas and thrillers with more adventurous fare.
Founded in 1984, the company has spent most of its years in Quogue Community Hall, an arrangement that allows the semi-professional troupe to stage four plays per season on an annual budget of $150,000. “We generally do a run of 12 shows,” explains Executive Director Sarah Hunnewell, whose husband, Jim Ewing, co-founded the troupe with June Ewing and Jim Irving. “In the good old days, we used to do four weekends, but theater in general is hurting as older people are leaving us,” she says.
Hunnewell notes that HTC relies on ticket sales, private contributions and playbill advertising, so they produce some “safe” plays to attract audiences. But over the years she’s learned that there is no such thing as a safe play. “You sometimes think you’re picking an ‘our choice’ show to do something risky, and it turns out to be a gangbuster hit, while the show you pick to feed the coffers doesn’t do very well. You never know.”
Hopes are high, though, for HTC’s current production, the Long Island premiere of Becky’s New Car, an offbeat comedy by prolific and well-regarded playwright Steven Dietz (Lonely Planet, Yankee Tavern), to be staged by Bob Kaplan. First performed in 2008 at Seattle’s ACT Theatre, the play was commissioned by Charles Staadecker, a wealthy patron there, as a 60th birthday present for his wife, Benita.
“Charles and his wife have been to every production of [the play],” notes Hunnewell. “And they’re flying here for our opening.” Ironically, the work is about a woman tempted to leave her marriage. “It’s kind of like Fuddy Meers,” adds Hunnewell, referring to David Lindsay-Abaire’s darkly zany comedy, which Hampton Theatre Company staged in 2006. “Becky’s New Car is a little more conventional, but also has that edge. I like it.”
Becky’s New Car runs March 15-April 1 at Quogue Community Hall, 125 Jessup Ave, in Quogue. (631) 653-8955 hamptontheatre.org