STORY WRITTEN BY BOB KEELER
@bybobkeeler on Twitter
SALFORD TWP >> “The Tin Woman” may not be exactly hearts and flowers, but this year’s Valentine’s show at DCP Theatre definitely has heart.
“They make me cry at every rehearsal,” said Beth Cohen, the show’s producer. “Everybody’s gonna be crying at the end — in a good way.”
The show, written by Sean Grennan, tells the story about heart transplant recipient Joy, the family of the donor and their eventual meeting.
“Based on a true story, ‘The Tin Woman’ uses humor and pathos to explore loss, family, and what it means to be given new life,” synopsis information says.
“It’s emotional, but he (Grennan) doesn’t bang you over the head with it,” said Nancy Server Thompson, who portrays Alice, the mother of the young man whose death provides the new heart for Joy.
Humor is laced throughout the show, she said.
“The relationships are written beautifully and they are the way people are,” Server Thompson said.
“Everybody’s seen those characters,” said Camille Eustice, who plays a double role as Darla and a nurse. “Everybody’s seen that moment.”
The show was first staged in 2014 in a production with Grennan’s actress sister, Erin Noel Grennan — who had shown him a newspaper article that led to the play and encouraged Sean to write the show — in the role of Joy.
The DCP production, running Feb. 5 through 20, marks the play’s regional premiere.
“It’s unusual to do one that’s so recent and to communicate with the playwright,” Ray Thompson, the show’s director, said. “That’s been a real joy to be able to contact the playwright and that the playwright was willing to be contacted.”
Grennan will be coming to the Sunday, Feb. 14 performance, which will be followed by a question and answer period with Grennan and the cast.
DCP learned about “The Tin Woman” when the theatre did Grennan’s “Making God Laugh” in 2014 and initially wanted to do “The Tin Woman” last year, but wasn’t able to get the rights at that time, Server Thompson said.
“He really kept in touch with us because he knew we wanted to get them for this year,” she said, “and we got them.”
Mary Beth Penjuke portrays Joy in the DCP production.
The role has taken her into new areas as an actress, she said.
“I usually have the comedic bit side parts, and this part is much more serious,” Penjuke said. “It’s been a very fun challenge.”
Leah Foster, who plays Sammy, was in last year’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” family theater at DCP. This is her first main stage role there.
“Sammy is the sister of the heart donor. She’s kind of the comic relief, I would say,” Foster said. “She’s been a lot of fun to play.”
Tim Schumann portrays Jack, the heart donor, whose on stage appearances are often in an undefined manner, leaving it up to the audience to interpret if he is a spirit-like being or appearing in the memory of other characters.
“They have to make their own decision of what he is and what he’s doing there,” Thompson said.
“I’ve pretty much made the decision he is a ghost in some way, but I still leave it up to the audience,” Schumann said.
Since most of his role is silent, he uses facial expressions and body movement to portray Jack, Schumann said.
“I do get to talk a few times when I’m dead,” he said.
Thompson said the show again brings together onstage his real-life wife, Server Thompson, and Wesley Hrabina, who plays Hank, Server Thompson’s onstage husband.
“They have such great chemistry that it makes my job easier,” Thompson said.
Hank is a curmudgeon, Hrabina said.
“I don’t think I’m curmudgery in general,” Hrabina said. “I’m trying to channel a few people I know that are cumudgery.”
Although the musicians do not perform in the show, music by Michael Borowski and Burning Bridget Cleary, both local musicians with DCP connections, is used for underscoring and transitions Thompson said.
Bill Thompson is the lighting and sound designer for the DCP production. Kat Valleley is the light and sound board operator. Victoria Henry is costume designer. Christopher McBreen is stage manager. Lillian Pyskaty is stage captain.
Grennan, who was an actor for many years, lives in New York City. He is married to actress Kathy Santen, who is currently appearing in “Wicked” on Broadway.