Rain: Sometimes too little, sometimes too much. 


This past summer Central New Jersey had near drought conditions and then it received record rainfall and hurricane warnings! Could the recent rehearsals for Center Players’ production of The Rainmaker be responsible for this weather phenomenon? Probably not, but it will be a beautiful show, opening on Friday October 9th, that tells the story of a family of ranchers in the 1920’s in the mid west. They were struggling with a long and devastating drought and the concerns of a widowed father and his sons who were trying to marry off the daughter who didn’t seem to have a talent for attracting a husband!
This sensitive comedy-drama written by N. Richard Nash and directed by Dave McGrath of Long Branch is brought to life by Ankit Sharma of Freehold, who plays Starbuck, the charming stranger who claims he is a Rainmaker and for $100.00 can bring rain! Lizzy, the potential spinster sister, played by Candy Predham, of Spring Lake, under goes a transformation with the help of Starbuck. David Clarke, of Long Branch, portrays Jim Curry, the father, while Matt Gochman of Jersey City, and Peter Giovine of Rumson play the sons who differ in opinions about Starbuck and his rainmaking abilities. Tom Shewchuk of Howell, portrays File, the sheriff’s deputy and Harvey Rothman of Keyport, is the kindly local sheriff. This play demonstrates that belief in one’s self can truly bring miracles.
The Rainmaker, opens at Center Playhouse, located at 35 South Street in downtown Freehold, on Friday, October 9th and runs for five weekends through November 8th, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $25 for Adults and $23 for Seniors & Students and includes gourmet desserts and refreshments. Group rates apply for parties of ten or more. Seating is limited so call the box office at (732) 462-9093 or visit us online at http://www.CenterPlayers.org to purchase your tickets. 

Photo caption

Candy Predham, as Lizzie and Ankit Sharma as Starbuck take direction from Dave McGrath during a rehearsal of The Rainmaker at Center Playhouse. The show opens on October 9th at the 35 South Street theater in Freehold. Photo by Mark Lamhut

Great production meeting for The Rainmaker. 

  The creative group gathers and discusses the different aspects of Center Players next production, The Rainmaker.  We discussed set design by Jeff Caplan , prop and costume design by Bernice Szita as well as sound and light design by Mark Lamhut and our production schedule. The show is produced by Colleen Defilice and Roberta Fallon.   Production meetings are interesting because it’s where a lot of ideas and thoughts about the meaning of the production come together. The show is directed by Dave McGrath.  

A Great Opening Night Review of “A Doll’s House”

A Dolls House Review by Muriel Smith
It’s got 19th century charm and 21st century talent, making “A Doll’s House” an absolute winner on stage at Center Playhouse, 35 South Street, Freehold. The two act play opened Friday night and continues through August, 9th. Tickets and information are available at http://www.centerplayers.org or by calling 732-462-9093.
They take on some pretty impressive challenges in their little theater on South Street, and this play is no exception.
A Doll’s House, written in the 19th century by Henrik Ibsen, was controversial at the time and remains controversial in the 21st century, for the very same reasons. It’s the story of a married couple at Christmas in the 1880s and the controversy focuses on whether a wife should be subservient to her husband, whether the end justifies the means when it comes to breaking the law, and whether any of us should be making decisions that impact other’s very lives.
Sounds deep, serious and formidable? It is. But given the outstanding cast and wonderful direction of the play at Center Playhouse, it’s wonderful, mesmerizing, captivating, and profound. The opening night audience remained spell bound from opening act to final curtain, breaking into applause only after taking a couple of deep breaths and lamenting it was over.
One of the charms of Center Playhouse is the fact that serious, experienced and award winning actors blend their talents and love of theater with newcomers, children, and playgoers themselves, and the result is sheer entertainment. Lauren Foxworth, for instance, who plays Nora Helmer, the wife who acts like she really does live in a charmed Doll House, has only been on stage in Freehold once before. But she’s appeared in a number of other community theater roles, including parts in The Taming of the Shrew, and Bell, Book and Candle. When she’s not on stage, she’s a professor at SUNY, conducting educational research and teaching preservice teachers. As Nora, she’s impeccable, commanding, driven.
So is Tom Shewchuk, who plays her husband, Torvald, a first timer to Center Playhouse, but hopefully a returning actor for many plays to come. He comes off as the arrogant, domineering husband with ideas and convictions a 21st century audience finds almost laughable.
The pair are more than ably supported by a cast that includes David Clarke, who Center Players’ patrons will remember as the wonderful Dr. Lyman in Bus Stop, John Devennie, another first timer at Center Playhouse, but an Excellence in Acting award winner at the NJTL One Act play competition a few years back and a two-time recipient of the Burlington Footlights Best Supporting Actor award; Devennie’s facial expressions, nods, grimaces, and attention to every detail are professionalism at its best.
Jill Zaitchick is magnificent as Nora’s friend and dominates some scenes with her 30 years experience on stage… she was the First Witch in the Stone Church Players’ production of Macbeth recently in Middletown, where she lives. She adds experience and wisdom to her role of Christine.
Smaller, but no less perfect roles are played by Phyllis Engelman, who’s been here before, and Roberta Fallon, a charmer who’s generally back stage doing everything that needs to be done in a small theater, but taking on a new challenge as an actress. She’s met her challenge extremely well and hopefully will continue to take on other roles in the future. Fallon is following her husband, Sheldon, in taking on new challenges for the sheer joy of it. He made his acting debut in Bus Stop, at the Playhouse, and was resplendent in full butler’s outfit escorting theatergoers to their seats on opening night of A Doll’s House.
The children in the play, Abby Leff and Erica Cuautle Perez are adorable and regrettable that they’re on stage for such short scenes.
Center Players Artistic Director Bernie Garfield-Szita excelled once again in directing this classic masterpiece, no surprise given her nearly half a century in the Arts and Community Theater. As in every other play she’s directed at Center Playhouse, Garfield-Szita’s husband, Bob Szita, produced the play and once again showed that this dynamic artistic couple love both the theater and the pleasure they’re able to bring to the audience.
The play is presented weekends for the remainder of July through August 9th, and you can get tickets, even selecting your seat, online by going to http://www.centerplayers.org or by calling 732-462-9093. Plan on making a reservation, come early and take advantage of their dinner and a show offer, or visit any of the other great restaurants in Freehold and make it a night worth remembering.
Muriel Smith is a guest reviewer for Center Players. She grew up in Union, NJ and lived in Highlands for more than 40 years, working as a newspaper writer/editor before leaving home with her husband 15 years ago to live in an RV and visit every state in the Union before determining that Monmouth County is still the best place to live. She’s now settled comfortably in Freehold.


Great review of Brighton Beach Memoirs!


A Delighted Audience Member’s Review of Brighton Beach Memoirs

By Fred Hertrich

As with each Quality-of-Life-Experience, the wonder of those which are – unquestionably – the very best begins with the “ingredients” ….. but beyond the correct ingredients, it is the recipe through which each is carefully and remarkably combined.

And so it is with the absolutely terrific production of Brighton Beach Memoirs currently being offered at Center Players, that  tucked-away-treasure of a community theater, neatly nestled on an otherwise undistinguished corner in picturesque downtown Freehold Borough.  If the time and opportunity to “go to the theatre” is limited, Brighton Beach Memoirs at Center Players is a “can’t miss!”

To be sure, the “ingredient” of the script is almost unparalleled.  Neil Simon …. a playwright  whose name alone is all that is necessary as an introduction …. has written a magnificent play.  Simply reading his writing alone brings the reader/reviewer to that very special historical reality of “just-before-The-War” in a somewhat-less-than-modest …. but frequently reflective home, wherein – absent any particular planning or intentionality, but simply of necessity – immediate and extended family shared food and shelter …. and the essence of “caring for one’s brother/sister” regardless of the economics of the time.


As performed at Center Players, that writing simply glows …. and presents an effervescence which is nothing short of amazing.  And that, of course, is because of the ancillary and critically important performance “ingredients” …. the actor-by-actor performances of the cast, the beyond-perfect set design graced by authentic wall hangings, photos, painted walls …. and, as always at Center Players …. the warmth of community, as friends and neighbors (primarily from the greater Freehold area) engage in an intimacy of a small theater, physically adjacent to one another in the lobby before show time, during comfortable seating during the show, at the always-a-treat-complimentary-refreshment-laced intermission … and – for those who so wish – in lobby conversation immediately after the show.

The combination of these wonderful “ingredients” are beautifully combined in a “theatrical recipe” which is – together – a perfect full-course delight.  Every “piece” stands fully and completely on its own … in combination …. a comprehensive delicacy.

No doubt, the crème de la crème are those who perform.  Individually – and as a team – they are nothing short of spectacular.  As with the finest of performances – professional or otherwise – each actor/actress does not “play a role;” rather, each IS the role.

By example of those returning to the stage at Center Players …. Kate Barron IS Nora and with her very presence, connects not only with her fellow performers but with the unique emotional chord within each member of the audience. Sheldon Fallon IS Jack …. and at several points throughout the performance, one can observe a visceral “connectedness” among the guests in the audience, for Jack – IF one closes her/his eyes for just a second or two, becomes your grandfather,  your great-grandfather, your long-ago uncle, nephew, in-law ….

Also returning to Center Players is Steven Lerner.  Steven IS Stanley …. and as such, everyone’s older, often idolized, brother.

And of those new to Center Players …. Arielle Kopp …. An amazingly talented middle-school student becomes Laurie early in the performance …. and Alicia Rodriguez shall always be Kate. In Brighton Beach Memoirs, Alicia Rodriguez clearly “earns her stripes” to sit among the plethora of FANTASTIC performances and performers which have graced Center Players from time to time during the more-than-a-decade presence of the theater in Freehold.

Aunt Blanche (more commonly known throughout Monmouth County as Lisa Merritt) -performing in tandem with each other actor/actress – offers a magnificent artistic presentation on her own, and as a member of this simply terrific ”team of talent.”

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And, of course, arguably the show’s “stopper!” …. Ryan Gordon …. Ryan’s presentation and incorporation in words, in body language, in emphasis, in totality ….  is absolutely Eugene.  Were he not surrounded by such a tremendous group of talent throughout, Eugene (Ryan Gordon) could – arguably carry a one-man-show …

Once more, Brighton Beach Memoirs at Center Players …. a cannot miss, for each for whom “memoirs of fantastic theater” matter.

Photos by Mark Lamhut

(Fred Hertrich is a multi-decade proud resident of Freehold.  With no theatrical experience whatsoever, he is the remarkably family-fortunate lifetime husband of Violet, and father of three children, all of whom were educated, in part, in the Freehold Township and Freehold Regional Schools … as is, presently, one of his grandchildren. Fred is both honored and privileged to serve as Professor of Political Science, currently for both Brookdale Community College and for Middlesex County College.)

***********  Ticket Information  *************

Brighton Beach Memoirs opened at Center Playhouse, located at 35 South Street in downtown Freehold, on Friday, April 17th and runs for five weekends through Sunday May 17th, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM.  There is an additional 2:00 Matinee on Saturday May 9th and no performance on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 10th.  Tickets are $25 for Adults and $23 for Seniors & Students and includes gourmet desserts and refreshments.  Group rates for parties of ten or more are available. Seating is limited so call the box office at (732) 462-9093 or visit us online at www.CenterPlayers.org to purchase your tickets.

                                                Creating the Set Design For Brighton Beach MemoirsWith Love                                                                                            By Bernice Garfield Szita: Artistic Director


When the lights go up for Center Player’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon, the audience will be transported to 1937 in a small house in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  It is the home of Neil Simon as an adolescent boy coming of age surrounded by the family and household environment of the era.

We take great pride in our attention to detail in all our productions, but Brighton Beach Memoirs is one of our most challenging efforts.  Many hours were spent in designing the 14 x 18 foot stage to meet the location and atmosphere needs of this complex production. The lighting and sound components help the audience to focus on the areas of the stage where the action is taking place. This is one of Center Players’ greatest achievements with over 60 light and sound cues!

The colors of the paint match what was used in the 1930’s, the furniture was selected to fit the era and the position of this lower income family at the time, and all the accessories and props are also consistent with what would have been utilized in this deco period.

We are especially proud of the photos mounted on the wall in the house.  They are pictures of the cast and crew’s families.  Many of our team members brought in memorabilia to add to the authenticity of the set and to bring the memories of their ancestors to be part of the spirit of this production.

All this was done on a minimal budget with the help of friends of the theater and our wonderfully devoted production team. We hope you enjoy the vision of love and hope that was created by all volunteers who believe in the magic of theater and the strength of community.

Construction under way for Brighton Beach Memoirs

dolls house logo 3

Construction has begun on the next production of Center Players’ season.  Tony LeBue, Tony Dentino, Jonathon Rothman and myself, Jeff Caplan are hard at work building the set.  Set construction is an interesting aspect of theater.  It all begins with a design, an idea of the setting of the piece.  Generally a director or set designer or both read the play and come up with a plan, then the design is drawn out to scale or sometimes it’s just a sketch on a piece of paper.  Either way it’s the start of the process.  Then in steps the construction team.  They take the design and carefully lay it out on the stage using tape to make sure it all fits together perfectly.  The next step is building out the walls using studs.  Generally we measure out the studs to 48 inches on center to accommodate the luan  pieces we use for the walls.


Many theater incorporate pre-built flats which is a lot easier and modular.  However, because of the size and nature of our theater we custom build our sets. After building out the studs for the walls, we put up the luan sheeting.  In this particular production a platform is called for to represent the bedroom.  We framed out the width and length of the platform and built a frame.  We then attached the legs to the frame and attached thick plywood to the top of it and ensured that it could hold multiple persons.   We always go by the rule measure twice cut once.  Detail is paramount to this theater group.  002

Next we put up the sheets of luan.  This creates the illusion of interior walls.  Careful attention is paid to adhering to the set design plans.


The next step in the process will be to add the moulding and finishing touches and then to paint.  The last step in the process is to dress the set with pictures, statues, furniture and nay decorative pieces that fit the design.  All of this must be done to period.  Since Brighton Beach memoirs is set in the 1940’s, we need to make sure all of our pieces our consistent with that period.  Thsi can be a challenging task.  In a space as intimate as this is, everything must be as authentic as possible.  Clothing, props and set pieces all must have the look and feel of the era.

There is a lot that goes into the production of a “period” piece such as this, but in the end it’s all worth it.  The final product shines as we strive to present the most detailed show that we possibly can.  We hope you will join us for this fantastic production of Brighton Beach Memoirs opening April 17th and running through May 17th.  Check our website for details. www.centerplayers.org

Boeing Boeing opens to rave reviews!!


It’s a Hit! BOEING opens to rave reviews!!!
by Muriel J. Smith
Bayshore Courier News

There have been some very funny and highly entertaining plays at the Center Playhouse, but the production currently on stage has to rank up there as one of the very best on this or any other stage.

Boeing Boeing , written by Marc Camoletti and directed by Joseph Stefanelli, has a story line that guarantees a laugh or at the very least a hearty chuckle every minute; literally.

Stefanelli, who is proving he’s every bit as excellent a director as he is an actor and co-producers Greco and Colleen DeFelice were masterful in casting this two-act comedy; every minute of the play proves that here at Center Players, there is a team that excels, works together, and as a result is highly successful in producing a smash hit in which every one of the six actors stars in his own right.

Timing: That’s the first key to the success of Boeing Boeing Set in an apartment near Orly Airport outside Paris, the play features Bernard, perfectly portrayed by JD Wilson, a playboy trying his best to keep three different beautiful women, all airline hostesses on different airlines, at bay from each other while all think each is his only heart throb. Action hits a pitch when the airlines and weather alter schedules, and Bernard and his long time friend, Robert, again, perfection in action as portrayed by Daniel Conroy, find themselves with all three women in the apartment at the same time. The timing comes in the slamming of doors, entry and exit of each of the players, and the precision of each of these movements as the men work at a fever pitch to get the females apart.

Energy: That’s the next thing that sets Boeing Boeing a cut above the rest. Six gorgeous young people: Conroy, Wilson, flight hostesses Kelsey Mackler, portraying Gloria the American, Annabelle Magnusson as Gretchen the German, Kate Pentek as Gabriella the Italian, and finally a grouchy yet cheerful and endearing maid played by Amy Garland Goldman, cavort, race, run, lift, toss and frolic with each other across this tiny stage, never missing a beat in their action nor tipping over a glass or table in the melee. Again, timing is everything and this team has it down pat.
Teamwork: It’s easy to see that while everyone in the cast is brand new to Center Players, they’ve certainly worked together in other venues and are bringing a giant sized trunk full of talent to the Freehold arena. Even Wilson, a military veteran (and just that is enough to thank him for!) and fifth grade school teacher who just hit the world of theater in the last year, has already made a name for himself at the Count Basie in Red Bank with Phoenix Productions, to say nothing of his writing ability and starring role in PL@Y, which raised $10,000 for the Ashley Lauren Foundation.

Perfection: That’s here, too, as evidenced in each actor pulling off funny and crazy stunts which could very well be disastrous and harmful to health and happiness should any one of them go wrong.
If there’s any one ‘star’ in this all star cast, it’s Bernard the playboy. Wilson, tall, handsome, with expressive eyes and quick wit, is strong, masterful and flawless, has great delivery and artistic and comedic skill. But then again, Conroy’s delivery and expressions are mesmerizing and attention getting. As for the flight attendants, each actress portrays her character with an intriguing accent, great delivery, and passion. And Goldman’s caustic side glances, her abrupt one liners and her interaction with the entire cast are all belted out with timeliness and gusto. This is truly a cast where each one deserves special acclaim and admiration.

Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 2:00 PM

At Center Playhouse
(35 South Street, Freehold)

Tickets are:
$25 – Adults*
$23 – Students & Seniors*
(Refreshments Included!)
* Plus $2 Processing Fee.*

Seating is limited per performance so
get your tickets TODAY! Call the box office at
(732) 462-9093 or visit us online at
Center Players of Freehold