Corrections or additions?

This article by Deb Cooperman was prepared for the December 15,

2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Stocking’s Full? Try a Bed

Ah, it’s that time of year again. You shop and you schlep and battle

the overcrowded parking lots. You make the party rounds and you wrap

packages and you prepare to entertain the relatives. When it comes

time to relax and unwind, you’d like to sit on the couch, flick on the

television and be entertained, but you’re up to your eyeballs with

decked halls and "It’s a Wonderful Life." Maybe now is a good time to

go out and see live theater, but really, how many times can you see "A

Christmas Carol"?

Not to worry. The folks at Off-Broadstreet Theater in Hopewell are

preparing a holiday offering like no other. With "A Bed Full of

Foreigners," Off-Broadstreet is presenting (hard to believe, but true)

a comedy with NO holiday theme whatsoever. The play runs on Friday and

Saturday nights, and on Sunday with a matinee performance through

Saturday, January 22. (There are no performances on December 24, 25,

or 26.) "This time of year we try to do something that’s a diversion

from the holidays," says co-producer Julie Thick. With so many

theaters offering holiday fare, "we purposely try to do something

different."

"Rated PG-13" according to Thick, "A Bed Full of Foreigners" was

written by Dave Freeman, a former writer for the outrageous comedian

Benny Hill. "It’s a real English farce," says Thick.

Taking place in a resort town in France, not far from the German

border, the story centers on Stanley and Claude – two men who have

mistakenly been booked into the same hotel room. Stanley is there for

what he hopes will be a relaxing holiday with his wife, and Claude is

planning a tryst with his mistress. It just happens that his wife is

there too. Full of the requisite slamming doors, mistaken identities,

and the wrong people in the wrong beds, "A Bed Full of Foreigners" is

sure to get you laughing, and there’s not a reindeer, sugar plum

fairy, or old coot in need of redemption in the lot.

Bouncing in and out of beds in the role of Claude is Princeton

resident Tom Stevenson, a regular on Off-Broad Street’s stage for over

10 years.

With a father in the Marine Corp, Stevenson’s family moved around a

lot, but settled in South Jersey when he was nine. Involved in theater

in high school, Stevenson didn’t consider pursuing it as a career; a

"hippy-ish, nature loving" bent propelled him to a degree in

horticulture at Virginia Tech.

After graduating, Stevenson worked in South Jersey in the nursery

industry propagating and growing plants. Several years later he moved

to the Princeton area, where he took a position with Bowman’s Hill

Wildflower Preserve in New Hope developing and maintaining the native

plants in the 100-acre preserve.

At the same time, Stevenson had also developed a taste for zymurgy –

the art and science of turning plants like malt and hops into beer. He

brewed small batches in his home, and considered it an enjoyable

hobby, nothing more. But after nearly five years with Bowman’s Hill,

Stevenson began to feel that his horticulture career was headed

nowhere. That’s when he heard about the impending opening of Triumph

Brewery in Princeton.

"I had the beer making bug," he says. He went to meet the owners. "I

told them they couldn’t possibly do it without me, and somehow that

stuck." How, he isn’t so sure. "It’s very different making five

gallons in your home, and making 325 gallons at a time in a brewery,

where you’re going to expect people to pay for what you’re making," he

says. But pay they have; in February, Stevenson, 53, marks 10 years as

Triumph’s "Brewmaster."

"It’s great working in that atmosphere," he says. "There’s lots of

stimulation; the staff is full of interesting people."

It’s the people that brought Stevenson to acting as well. "I did a lot

of plays back in high school, but then I didn’t do anything at all for

a long time," he says. About 15 years ago, after the breakup of a long

term relationship, Stevenson says he "needed something to get me out

to relate to other human beings." Living in South Jersey at the time,

he began with an acting class at the Ritz Theater in Oakland. When he

moved north for the Bowman’s job, he contacted Julie and Robert Thick

of Off-Broad Street. "There was a relationship between the producers

at the Ritz and the Thicks," he says. "I’d heard about Off-Broadstreet

and I thought it was time to take a visit." He landed a part in

"Arsenic and Old Lace," the first of many roles on the Hopewell stage

for Stevenson.

The pace of a full-time job and a rehearsal schedule doesn’t faze him.

"Everybody in the cast has regular jobs; this is how people with day

jobs do it," he says. "Instead of sitting in the living room watching

TV, I go to rehearsal for three hours."

With "A Bed Full of Foreigners," Stevenson enjoys the extremes of his

character, Claude. "He’s this misbehaving husband on one hand, and

this strident moralizer on the other; the contrast provides a lot of

possibilities."

While Claude has a moralizing side, don’t expect to see any ghosts of

mis-spent past lives here; just an all out romp with laughs at every

slamming door. So get thee to Off Broad Street and take heart, because

yes Virginia, there IS an alternative to Santa Claus.

– Deb Cooperman

A Bed Full of Foreigners, Off-Broad Street Theater, 5

South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, to Saturday, January 22. Friday and

Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m.

Doors open at 7 p.m. for evening shows and at 1:30 p.m.

for matinees. Dessert and coffee are included in the $22 to $25.25

ticket price. 609-466-2766.


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