American Stage is going to try something new with its next mainstage production — or make that productions. Originally, Lisa Kron's one-woman play 2.5 Minute Ride was scheduled to open on March 14, and it still is. But the company has now added the opening of a second play on the same night, A Steady Rain, a two-man play about a pair of police officers by Keith Huff.
"We decided to take the opportunity to explore if a double bill would work," said Todd Olson, producing artistic director of the St. Petersburg theater. "We'll do one play in one act, then do an artful resetting, and stretch ourselves and see if we can do two plays in one night."
It promises to be a full night of theater. 2.5 Minute Ride runs about 75 minutes, and A Steady Rain about 90 minutes, both without intermission. Curtain times will vary, but on the opening Friday night, for example, they will be 8 p.m. for Kron's play and 9:45 p.m. for Huff's play.
Ticket prices for 2.5 Minute Ride will range from $29 to $47, depending on date and time of performance. All performances of A Steady Rain will be $29 general admission. Both plays will continue through May 6, keeping the downtown theater occupied while American Stage in the Park's The Rocky Horror Show is going on at Demens Landing.
Will audiences take in both plays in one night? "I think our audience is pretty game," Olson said. "If you look at something like Seven Guitars (the theater's current production), which has an 85-minute first act, and then you go to intermission and a second act of a little over an hour, that's kind of what this evening is going to be like."
American Stage is also going to try another twist on scheduling, with its first weekday matinee performances of one or the other play. Modeled to some extent (with free coffee) on the Florida Orchestra's popular morning coffee concerts, the Wednesday Matinee Cafe Series premieres at 11 a.m. March 21 with 2.5 Minute Ride. There will be six weekday matinees for $29 apiece.
A Steady Rain was going to be staged last year, but it was replaced by Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park. There were questions about the availability of performance rights to Huff's play, and Olson also thought a lighter work would go down better with the theater's audience.
Mainly by virtue of its two-month run, Barefoot in the Park drew 5,800, which was the top attendance of a mainstage production in the company's 32-year history, but the cost of paying a five-person cast was high. "I felt like it was a mixed result," Olson said of the switch from police drama to comedy.
A Steady Rain, a Broadway smash in 2009 with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, will star Drew DeCaro and Gene D'Alessandro as Chicago cops in crisis.
Lisa Powers will star in 2.5 Minute Ride, the story of a daughter coming to understand her father, a Holocaust survivor. Powers is returning to American Stage for the first time in 15 years. In the 1990s she was one of the company's leading actors and then artistic director before leaving in a disagreement with the board.
Olson, who is directing 2.5 Minute Ride, didn't really know Powers, but he was hoping an opportunity to bring her back to the theater might present itself.
"People always spoke about how magnificent she was on stage, and I've always thought this might happen one day," he said. "I needed a woman of a certain maturity and gravitas, and just started thinking of Lisa more, and finally reached out."
John Fleming can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8716.