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Brooke Hills Playhouse Opens ‘The Red Velvet Cake War’

Cast members Rob DeSantis and Sarah Tennant rehearse for the Brooke Hills Playhouse production of “The Red Velvet Cake War.”

WELLSBURG — The Brooke Hills Playhouse this weekend will open its production “The Red Velvet Cake War,” a comedy by the team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, after weeks of rehearsal under COVID-19 restrictions.

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. today and Saturday, Aug. 21-22, and next Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28-29, with matinee performances at 2 p.m Sunday, Aug. 23, and the following Sunday, Aug. 30 at the Playhouse, located in Brooke Hills Park, five miles east of Wellsburg, off W.Va. 27.

The Playhouse’s 49th season is sponsored by Municipal Mutual Insurance Company and by Traubert’s Pharmacy of Wellsburg.

“We will be following the recommendations of Brooke County Health Inspector Mike Bolen,” Diana Mendel of Wellsburg, the show’s director, said. “We are asking patrons to call or text the Playhouse at 304-737-3344 for reservations. Seating will be limited, and we will follow social distancing.”

Mendel said cast members, who practiced outdoors for the first few weeks pf rehearsals, respected each other’s varying feelings about the rehearsal process under the unusual circumstances.

“During the blocking early on, some actors chose to wait until later rehearsals to get fully involved in close physical actions, so trust played a huge part in any of this happening.” She said. “It helped a lot that we were all healthy. Although a few actors wore masks at early rehearsals, social distancing did not play a huge part in my directing decisions. I have worked with most of my cast for several years, and they are like an extended family, based on a special rapport and mutual respect.

“At the auditions, everyone made clear their intention to come back to the stage, to have somewhat of a sense of normalcy, and to do what they love to do best: perform!”

Mendel said her job as a director has been made much easier by the quality of talent in the cast.

“My challenge in every show is to get the best performance that I can from each actor, but these actors always exceed expectations,” she said. “These people are, for the most part, veteran actors who are always up to the challenge, striving for perfection in their dialogue, working as a team to relay the right timing and delivery and reacting authentically in their responses to their fellow actors.”

The story of “The Red Velvet Cake War” centers around the wild preparations for the Verdeen family reunion in the wake of a recent family scandal, a parade of eccentric Verdeen kinfolk, a looming tornado and a competition to make the best version of the title cake. Jones, Hope and Wooten’s comedies have graced the Playhouse stage for many years, most recently with “Farce of Habit” in 2018.

According to Julia Barnhart of Wellsburg, president of the Playhouse’s parent organization, the Brooke County Arts Council, “season passes purchased for 2020 can be used for this year and for 2021.”

Reservations for the show are available by calling or texting the Playhouse at 304-737-33344, and are necessary because of limited seating and required social distancing.

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