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Season opener 'Suite Surrender' offers quirky characters, romance, divas, dog

Two demanding divas and only one palatial hotel room? Sounds like a recipe for trouble. Add in some quirky bellhops, stressed out support staff, slamming doors, mistaken identities and one adorable lap dog and the result is "Suite Surrender."

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Director Kraig Williams, center, tries to keep out of the way of warring divas Tracey Grant, left, and Kathleen Silloway. The comedy is New Century Players' first production of the season, opening Sept. 13 in the Blackbox Theatre at Rex Putnam High School.

This marks director Kraig Williams' third time staging the play, which he described as a "joy to direct."

Each time, "it has been the best experience for both myself and the casts I've worked with. Everyone looks forward to rehearsals because we all have so much fun."

Williams added, "Audiences love it so much they tend to come back to watch it a second or third time. You know you have magic when all that happens."

Divas face off

The plot of the play revolves around Claudia and Athena, two of Hollywood's biggest divas and bitter rivals, who are performing at a benefit for the war effort for "our World War II boys in uniform" at a posh hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.

"Somehow they mistakenly get booked into the same hotel room and it is up to the two divas' hapless personal secretaries and frazzled hotel staff to keep them from tearing the hotel apart," Williams said. "Flighty socialites, nosey reporters and a high maintenance lapdog complicate things even more."

Without giving too much away, Williams said one of his favorite scenes is when Mr. Pippet, Claudia's hapless personal secretary, has "his moment," at the end of the play, and another favorite is when one of the bellhops has a bit of a mishap with Claudia's precious dog Mr. Boodles.

"The audience will love this play because every character will make them laugh," Williams said.

"It's fast paced and never a dull moment. It has romance, comedy, music and just makes people feel good all around; each and every character has his or her own shining moment."

Williams added, "The cast and crew have worked very hard getting this show together, and we can't wait to share this labor of love with NCP audiences."

Claudia McFadden

The first diva the audience will meet in "Suite Surrender" is Claudia McFadden, known as "America's beloved matron of song."

"Claudia is a star. She has worked hard to get where she is, and she deserves her success," said Kathleen Silloway, who plays the role.

"She has high standards and expects everyone else to adhere to them. And if they don't, well then, they really shouldn't have been standing so close to the railing of that balcony," she added.

What Silloway likes best about Claudia is that she is a "woman of character, a woman of talent, and a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it."

Silloway said what she has enjoyed the most about working on the play is the level of talent and creativity each person brings to their character.

As for the audience, "they're going to have endorphins coursing through their body after laughing so hard and for so long," she said.

Athena Sinclair

Athena is a 1940s entertainer who is best described as "an overconfident, man crazy, multiple divorced, fun-loving, oversexual woman who thrives on attention and the spotlight," said Tracey Grant, of her character.

"She lives in the moment and is someone who would kiss strange men and dance in fountains," she said. "I love that Athena is so sultry and confident. She doesn't worry about anything except running into her enemy Claudia McFadden."

Grant has had fun working with the cast because they are so supportive and energetic.

"Everyone loves being together, and when you have a tight-knit group like ours, that 'family' dynamic just enhances the performances on stage," she said.

"The writing is brilliant; the audience will have so much fun and will fall in love with all the various stories that are being intermingled."

Grant added that "Suite Surrender" is "fast paced and has a little bit of everything ... rival divas, a love story, singing, wrongful assumptions, sheer panic and a dog."

New season begins

What: The New Century Players present "Suite Surrender," by Michael McKeever

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28, and 2 p.m. Sept. 15, 22 and 29

Where: Rex Putnam Blackbox Theater, 4950 S.E. Roethe Road, Milwaukie

Tickets: Visit or call 503-367-2620. Cost is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students.

More: The mission of New Century Players is to build community in the greater Milwaukie area by providing opportunities for artistic expression through live performances.

Cast: "Suite Surrender" is directed by Kraig Williams and the cast includes, Allen Denison, Tracey Grant, Ian Leiner, Diana Loverso, Jason Paris, Lisa Jeanne Peterson, Kathleen Silloway, Valerie Vorderlandwehr, Kevin Yell and understudy Mary Weigel.

Next: Auditions for "The Octette Bridge Club," directed by Karlyn Love, will take place from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 23 at Rose Villa Performing Arts Center, 13505 S.E. River Road, Oak Grove. Call 503-367-2620. The cast calls for eight women and one man. The play runs from Nov. 15 to Dec. 1.

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