SPRING HILL — A retired pastor's widow and an acerbic — and much younger — dance instructor. Put the two together, and the result is similar to oil and water.
When Lily Harrison hires dance instructor Michael Minetti to give her private dance lessons in her gulffront St. Pete Beach condo, what starts out as antagonistic eventually grows into an intimate relationship.
The journey to the warm friendship includes hostility, foul language and a lot of humor that will entertain audiences when Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks opens Thursday at Stage West Community Playhouse.
The international hit play, written by Richard Alfieri and directed by Myndee Washington, addresses ageism and intolerance and features a cast of two.
Lily, a woman in her 70s, is the lonely widow of a Southern Baptist minister. She is nervous about meeting new people, so she hires Michael to teach her dance lessons.
Michael is a gay dance instructor, in his late 30s or early 40s. At first, he lets Lily believe he is heterosexual and married.
"They start off immediately at odds," Washington said.
The result is a show filled with sarcastic humor and adult language. It's not recommended for young children.
Betsy Glasson and Peter Clapsis, two Stage West veterans with strong personalities of their own, play the two characters.
"I am lucky to have people like Betsy and Pete," Washington said. "Their chemistry is amazing. … When I put the two together during auditions, they were the characters — spot on. They are just charming together."
Washington said having a small cast challenges the actors, because each is responsible for half the dialogue.
Clapsis, who joined Stage West in 2005, has performed in numerous shows at the theater, including roles as Boris Kolenkhov in You Can't Take It with You, Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Pseudolus, the conniving Roman slave in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and the king in The King and I. In the past year, Clapsis has had roles at the Show Palace Dinner Theater in Hudson, including in Oklahoma!, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and 42nd Street.
Glasson, a seven-time HAMI award-winning singer and actor, has been performing with Stage West for 19 years and is known for her performances as Victoria in Victor/Victoria, Mother Superior in Nunsense and Mammy Yokum in Li'l Abner.
This show, however, is her first time performing in a two-person show.
"It is more work than what I anticipated," Glasson admitted. "I didn't have any trouble memorizing but didn't realize there would be so much dancing. … I love to dance, but ballroom dancing is much different. It is a competition-type dance that requires more attitude, more posture. … Working with (choreographer) Bill Dimmitt, he has been the epitome of patience," she said.
As Lily, Glasson said she is excited because she gets to experience "a whole gamut of emotions. She's angry, she's pathetic and she's touching. … It's a wonderful opportunity."
And working with Clapsis?
"We work well together and respect each other's experience," Glasson said, though she laughed as she admitted she is uncertain whether her co-star's sarcasm is coming from Michael or Peter.
"They are charming together," Washington said. "A number of times, in rehearsal, we just cried watching them. They are so beautiful together. Both of them are a blessing. They really brought these characters to life."