Getting “a leg up” takes on a whole new meaning in a play making its world premiere this month at Bristol Riverside Theatre.
Written by BRT Co-Producing Director Ken Kaissar and directed by BRT Co-Producing Director Amy Kaissar, “A Leg Up” literally kicks off a season in which audiences can look forward to madcap stories where characters seem to thrive on chaos.
Modeled after Ken’s favorite farce, “A Flea in Her Ear” by Georges Feydeau, but with twists and turns of its own, the centerpiece of his new play is a prosthetic leg that goes haywire, kicking people it doesn’t like.
Originally scheduled to premier in May 2020 – before the real-life husband and wife knew they would be part of BRTs new leadership team – the show runs Sept. 20 to Oct. 9, beginning with previews, followed by opening night at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29.
Also on the bill for the season are the murder mystery “Clue,” Nov. 1-20; the musical “Cabaret,” March 21-April 16; and the Philadelphia premiere of “Chicken and Biscuits,” May 16-June 4.
“A Leg Up” was developed through BRT’s new play development program America Rising, and there have been readings and workshops with audience feedback, but “this production is the first time this play has been fully staged,” Ken said.
True to farce form, which Ken said is “often described as a machine with lots of cogs sped up,” and characters who “keep running but can’t keep up ... all of the characters end up looking ridiculous.”
Charles’ family money is gone, and his rich wife wants a divorce. His future rests on the new XR3000, an intelligent prosthetic leg designed for the U.S. senator who is running for president. Unfortunately, the leg is malfunctioning.
Designed to interact with the conscious mind, it’s interacting with the subconscious instead, randomly kicking people it doesn’t like and playing footsie with those it does.
Meanwhile, Charles’ Ukrainian maid is threatening to quit, his gold-digging mistress announces she’s pregnant, his business partner has her eye on his wife, the senator is secretly having an affair with the leg designer, and it’s not even lunchtime yet.
“This was a play that I started writing in 2014,” Ken said. At the time, he said, he also was directing a play and teaching a course on gender and sexuality.
“It occurred to me all of the classical farces were driven by heterosexual characters,” he said. “It occurred to me there should be a play (with characters) all across the spectrum.”
The production features James Joseph O’Neil as Charles Griffin III, the literal straight man who remains deadpan and composed while the characters around him act up; John Siciliano as Edward, an ex-priest turned leg model; David S. Robbins as Rufus Reynolds, a gay-prosthetic leg designer and engineer; and Marla Alpert as Stephanie Wolcott, the CEO of the prosthetic leg company who happens to be a transgender woman.
It also features Jennifer Byrne as Svyatoslava Ilyinichna Kyrychenko, a deeply religious Ukrainian maid; Brittney Lee Hamilton as Laurie, a bisexual mistress; Joe Hogan as Sen. Sam Wannamead, the presumptive GOP nominee for president of the United States, who is also an amputee; and Liz Maurer as Barbara, a sexuality questioning heiress.
“A Leg Up” includes two actors who are leg amputees. One of them, John Siciliano, who plays Eddie, was in the 1996 Paralympics as a sprinter. He also does work for a number of prosthetics companies and organizations that help new amputees.
Amy said when they put out a casting call they found “two fabulous actors with prosthetic legs and great acting chops.”
BRT offers season ticket packages and tickets for single shows. Subscriptions save up to $20 per ticket, allow for exchanges and repeat visits to the same show.
“We always encourage our audiences to subscribe to the whole season,” Amy said. “We have three comedies and a classic musical because of the time we’re coming out of.
“I want people to know that this season we are here celebrating new beginnings, joy and laughter,” Amy said. “This is a year when we are looking forward to meeting new folks and laughing together; people should come to see what’s in their own backyard.”
For tickets and information, visit brtstage.org.