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A marriage made in Winter Haven

Here's a rarity: a community theater play about people who actually live in Florida, in a mobile home park in Winter Haven. No chorus line singers, no New York City high-rise dwellers, no surrey with a fringe on top.

Marrying Walt, opening this weekend at Playhouse 19, is billed as a gentle romantic comedy about Mary (Lesa Ehlers) and Walt (Don Doe), both in their 60s, living in a mobile home in central Florida.

The couple are facing the trials, tribulations and joys of a long lifetime. Midway through the play, the 20-something children arrive on the scene to "make things better" for the parents.

The author, playwright James Danek lives in St. Louis, where he runs a Medieval-themed dinner theater called "The Royal Dumpe."

"It's one of the longest running shows in the country," he said. "We've been doing the same show for 31 years."

Marrying Walt started out as a 10-minute play for a competition, he said, but he enjoyed the characters, which are based on relatives living in Winter Haven, and fleshed out the story into a two-act play.

"Mary and Walt have a secret: They're not married," Danek said. "This bothers Mary, so she decides that it's time for them to take off to Las Vegas and get married over the weekend _ and she wants Elvis to perform the ceremony."

Rounding out the cast are Walt's children Randee (Sharon Farnsworth) and Jackie (Karen Neeld), who want him to move back to Wisconsin. Other cast members are Father Tom Goldman (Doc Weingarten) and Lovy (Kevin Stauff).

Danek visited Playhouse 19 for rehearsals this week, and said the actors were doing a good job with his script.

"This is a contemporary comedy, and they're just having a ball with it," he said.

Danek said he has written 12 plays, and said that Marrying Walt, written in 1999, is catching on at theaters.

"This is the second production of it this year, and it's scheduled for a run in Marathon next," he said.

Greg Wilker is the director for the Playhouse 19 production, Danielle Flury is the stage manager, Debra Ryan is assistant stage manager and Lukas Cyr handles the lighting.

_ Jorge Sanchez covers Citrus County arts and entertainment and can be reached at 860-7313. Send e-mail to sanchezsptimes.com.

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