MIDDLETOWN: PLAY ON, AT TWO LANDMARKS

The Navesink Arts Center (the long-ago Middletown Library) and the “Old Stone Church” at All Saints are the settings for some hearth-warming community theater events in weekends to come.

Here in the season of the Great Pumpkin Spice, thoughts stray across the Oceanic Bridge, and into the Navesink-Locust precincts of Middletown Township — a place of rustic old landmarks, foliage-festooned hillside trails, and the mist-shrouded banks of Many Mind Creek.

Beginning this weekend, and for many October days and nights to come, two of the area’s most historic haunts are offering up some diversions designed to take some that encroaching seasonal chill from the bones.

It all begins Friday NIGHT, when the Stone Church Players return, this time lightening the autumnal mood with a show that put a delightfully daffy spin on an age-old tale: the musical Once Upon a Mattress.

Based on the literal bedtime story of “The Princess and the Pea,” and featuring songs by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer, the fun fairytale frolic that made a star of young Carol Burnett gets a fresh turn-over, courtesy of director Michael Hazlett and the Stone Church troupe. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. in the enchanted environs of All Saints’ Memorial (the historic “Old Stone Church” at the crossroads of Navesink and Monmouth Avenues). Tickets ($25 adults) can be reserved by calling (732) 291-0214. If you’re attending the matinee, arrive early and treat yourself to an atmospheric October tour of All Saints’ antique, terraced hillside graveyard.

Just a bit down Monmouth Avenue, the former site of the Navesink Library — now refurbished and rebranded as the Navesink Arts Center — serves as headquarters for the area’s longest established theatrical company, the Monmouth Players. While the players are marking their 64th season, they’ve got an even more significant milestone to observe — and on Sunday, October 15, they’ll celebrate the centennial of their historic home (and formally dedicate their Dean Anderson Theater), with a 100 Year Anniversary Gala that runs from 2 to 5 p.m.

Promised for the occasion are “music, historic photos and facts, food, fun and more,” so if you’ve never set foot inside this relatively low-key local landmark, here’s an excellent opportunity to get acquainted. Take it here for redbankgreen‘s archived article on the venerable venue’s transformation — and call (732) 291-9211 or visit the troupe’s website or Facebook page for required reservations ($15 general admission).

On Friday, October 20, the Monmouth Players continue a recently minted tradition — that of filling their schedule between mainstage shows with presentations of readings from the works of great authors — with “A Whitman Sampler” that pays tribute to the words and works of the great American poet (and Hall of Fame Jerseyan) Walt Whitman. It takes place at 8:15 p.m. in the building’s beautifully restored Reading Room, with ticket reservations priced at $15.

The players return to their auditorium stage in November — once again with the works of a favorite wordsmith, time time, Thornton Wilder — with a new staging of Our Town, a play that’s both classic Americana and cutting-edge modern.

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