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Mask&Mirror Community Theatre is performing the comedy by famed playwright Ken Ludwig.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Jeff Ekdahl, who plays the role of Leo, and Ted Schroeder, who plays the role of Jack, rehearse lines during a dress rehearsal of Leading Ladies by Mask&Mirror Community Theatre at the Calvin Presbyterian Church in Tigard.Mask&Mirror Community Theatre's upcoming production, "Leading Ladies," is a comic farce involving two Shakespearean actors, a devious ruse and a gender-bending love triangle.

Director Janet Steiger Carr and her cast aim to crack up audiences. But although their show has broad, goofy themes, it's not a cartoon.

"We are not rehearsing it as a farce," said Steiger Carr. "These characters are not caricatures. We love them. They are true, and they are honest, and they are human — and the humor comes out of the ridiculous situations that they find themselves in."

"Leading Ladies" was written by playwright Ken Ludwig, premiering in 2004. Steiger Carr describes the Mask&Mirror production as an homage to the classic comedy film "Some Like It Hot" and William Shakespeare's own comedy "Twelfth Night."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Veteran actor and director Janet Steiger Carr is at the helm of 'Leading Ladies,' Mask&Mirror Community Theatre's fall production."He's a brilliant playwright," Steiger Carr said of Ludwig. "His comedic structure is just unsurpassed. He puts together a scene like nobody's business."

Jeff Ekdahl and Ted Schroeder star as Leo and Jack, two Shakespearean actors who concoct a scheme to steal an elderly woman's bequest by posing as her long-lost nephews — only to discover that they're actually nieces, at which point they begin cross-dressing to keep up the ruse.

Angela Michtom co-stars as Florence, the target of Leo and Jack's scam. Also starring are Kira Smolev as Florence's actual niece, Meg; Mark Putnam as Meg's fiance, Duncan; Victoria Brooks as Florence's assistant, Audrey; and Stan Yeend and Joshua Willis as Doctor Myers and his son Butch.

Steiger Carr, a stage veteran and author, praised the quality of her performers — something Gary Romans, Mask&Mirror's co-founder, said he's seeing more and more of as the Tigard-based community theater company's reputation grows.

"Our shows have been high enough quality that we are starting to get very good sets of auditioners," Romans said. "There's a whole culture of this all-volunteer community theater, and we are getting the cream of the crop in our auditions because people want to work here."

It's a good thing, too, because not only does "Leading Ladies" have a knotty plot, but it's technically complicated. Steiger Carr said she wanted to take extra time in the rehearsal process to not only make sure her actors were nailing the play's comedic beats, but also to choreograph scenes that involve sword-fighting, tango dancing and rollerskating, as well as to acclimate some of her performers to reciting lines in Shakespearean English during the "play-within-a-play" scenes in which they rehearse for a hastily staged production of "Twelfth Night."

In between the laugh lines, the play explores themes of gender-fluidity, identity and relationships.

"I hope the audience comes away just feeling the joy that we have felt doing this," Steiger Carr said. "We're not going heavy 'message,' although the message is there."

"We know our audience, and we know what we can do here," Romans remarked.

"Leading Ladies" will be staged at Calvin Presbyterian Church, 10445 S.W. Canterbury Lane in Tigard, from which Mask&Mirror leases theater space. The show opens Friday, Nov. 1, and runs through Nov. 17, with performances Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m. Sunday shows start at 2:30 p.m.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Mask&Mirror's website.PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Joshua Willis, who plays Butch in Mask&Mirrors upcoming play Leading Ladies, and Kira Smolev, who portrays Meg, rehearse a scene in which their characters are practicing for a production of Twelfth Night.

By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
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