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Stage planner: 'Rocket Science' launches, Adam Ferrara, 'The 39 Steps'


A NASA scientist prepares himself a dream trip into space, but life gets the way.

The premise of Rocket Science, a Lab Theater Project show opening this weekend, sounds Twilight Zone-ish but without the mothballs, even fresh. Maybe that's because Lab Theater Project, which held its first production in March, puts on only new plays.

Shows are held at Tampa's Silver Meteor Gallery, but have no connection to the gallery itself.

"We really are working on developing new artists in this community," said Owen Robertson, 48, an actor and director.

Some of Lab Theater Project's new plays could become films, thanks to Robertson's partnership with Stephen Ashworth, whom he met while both were pursuing master's degrees at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. Robertson opened a comic book store and has worked in numerous plays in Tampa and Orlando. Ashworth, who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, founded a film production company. Now Ashworth Productions and Lab Theater Project are partners, cross-pollinating new works for the best fit.

"If (a screenplay) looks worthwhile, we'll pull it from film to theater, develop characters and see how it looks on stage," Robertson said. "Or (Ashworth) might say, 'I'm going to adapt this play to the screen and look at it as a low-budget film.' "

Ashworth is also the playwright behind Rocket Science, in which a professor readies himself for space.

"He has prepared for this trip, he's ready to go," Robertson said. "But something happens that leads him to a different calling of teaching."

The show starts at 8 p.m. today through Sunday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It runs through July 3 at the Silver Meteor Gallery, 2213 E Sixth Ave., Ybor City. $15. (813) 238-1756.


Like a lot of successful comedians who have landed acting roles, Adam Ferrara likes to keep his connection with the art form that made him famous.

The likable comic has played Chief Needles Nelson in the Emmy-nominated Rescue Me, Sgt. Frank Verelli in NYPD and other roles in Nurse Jackie, The King of Queens and Ugly Betty. But he never tires of regaling audiences with his observations of everyday life, informed by his Italian heritage growing up in New York. He'll perform this weekend in Ybor City. Shows start at 8 p.m. today, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. $22-$25. (813) 864-4000.


Carrollwood Players Theatre's The 39 Steps, a comedic sendup of the original spy thriller and film, keeps rolling on the community theater scene this weekend.

Among the show's distinguishing traits is the absurd burden it places on its four actors, who somehow divide more than 150 roles between them. Let's not forget that Jim Moss plays only the paranoid Richard Hannay, and Joie Marsh plays Hannay's three romantic interests.

That leaves the rest to Jeff Roush and Trish Farber. Their characters include a suspicious Scottish farmer, a stage performer with a photographic memory and a professor determined to crack the code buried somewhere in the "39 steps."

The basic story of a 1915 novel by John Buchan has stuck around more than a century, most famously for a 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film. The play by Patrick Barlow, which opened on Broadway in 2008, drops sly shoutouts for Hitchcock fans, allusions to the likes of Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window and North by Northwest. Marc S. Sanders directs the Carrollwood Players production.

The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. It runs through July 2 at Carrollwood Players Theatre, 4333 Gunn Highway, Tampa. $20, $17 seniors, students and military. (813) 265-4000.


Another community theater production, Mad Theatre's Cabaret, closes this weekend. The acid-tongued musical set in pre-war Berlin offers a handful of onstage seats at the Kit Kat Klub, with opportunities to take photos with cast members. Onstage customers must be in their seats 10 minutes early. Cabaret starts at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts' Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $25-$35. (813) 229-7827.

Stage planner: 'Rocket Science' launches, Adam Ferrara, 'The 39 Steps' 06/22/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 10:44am]
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