Between its rustic old landmarks, the mist-shrouded banks of Many Mind Creek, and the hillside trails of the Hartshorne Woods, the Navesink section of Middletown Township seems a natural draw here in the season of the Great Pumpkin Latte — and among its many autumnal delights is the annual kickoff to a new interlude of intriguing community theater; both from the area’s longest-established stage troupe, as well as from a relative upstart with a history-steeped connection.
It all begins this Friday, October 3, when the Stone Church Players return with a new take on a classic that’s old as the ruddy moors — William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Macbeth. The allegedly accursed “Scottish Play” has been blamed for as many freak backstage accidents as it has elevated thespian careers — but while the Bard’s blood-drenched drama of murderous ambition and ill-met-by-moonlight madness seems a perfect fit for All Saints’ Memorial (the historic “Old Stone Church” at the crossroads of Navesink and Monmouth Avenues), the producers have cooked up a cauldron of surprises for theatergoers.
Co-directors Michael McClellan and CJ Nolan have transported Macbeth from the dank castles of Scotland to the glass-and-steel canyons of NYC’s Financial District — a realm where “cell phones and iPads are the weapons of choice,” and where the play’s witchy Weird Sisters toil and trouble from their base at Zuccotti Park. The production continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 3 pm, through October 12 — and tickets ($10; half price for seniors) can be reserved by calling (732)291-0214. Arrive early for the matinee, and treat yourself to a tour of All Saints’ antique, terraced hillside graveyard.
Just a Highland boulder’s hurl down Monmouth Avenue, the historic former home of the Navesink Library — now refurbished and rebranded as the Navesink Arts Center — is the place to be for a new season of entertainments by the venerable Monmouth Players. Last time out, the Players were playing it serious with an evening of one-acts by Tennessee Williams — but in the opening salvo of what appears to be their sixty-first consecutive season of weekend-warrior theater, the company under the stewardship of Lori and Paul Renick is cranking the Laff-O-Meter up to TILT with an encore staging of the British bedroom comedy Run For Your Wife. One of the most popular items from the typewriter of farcemaster Ray Cooney (and when it comes to fast-paced sexcapades, nobody does it better), the downmarket door-slammer is built around what’s actually a pretty sophisticated theatrical device. A single set stands in as two separate apartments, on opposite ends of the city, as a bigamous taxi man dashes to divide his time equitably between his two unsuspecting wives. Occurring mere inches away but never intersecting, the double-tracked action reaches a farcical fever pitch as the cab-driving cad finds his “separate” lives threatening to collide like charged particles. Opening on Saturday, October 4 and continuing with 8:15 pm performances on October 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25 (plus 2 pm matinees on October 5, 12 and 19) Run For Your Wife is served up, as ever, with the pLayer’s tantalizing spread of homemade desserts. Reserve tickets ($20, with student and senior discounts) by calling (732)291-9211 — and check the company’s Facebook page for further announcements about their 2014-2015 season.