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Twelve performances of Deathtrap come to the Lab Theater on October 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Individual and season tickets are available on www.brownpapertickets.com by clicking HERE. In this section, you will find articles about the play, playwright, director and upcoming production of the show at the Laboratory Theater of Florida (posted in date order from oldest to latest).

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Lab Theater opens Season 6 with twelve performances of Ira Levin’s hit ‘Deathtrap’ (09-14-14)

labdeathtrap1The Laboratory Theater of Florida opens its sixth season with Deathtrap, a five-character mystery thriller that was one of the biggest hits in Broadway history and the last major example of playwright/author Ira Levin’s once-bountiful genre.

The play is about Sydney Bruhl, a successful writer experiencing a dry spell who tries to steal a script idea from one of his students. He offers a collaboration, which the young man quickly accepts. Suspense mounts as the plot evolves with cleverness, thrills and laughter with the pieces of the play rearranged and twisted again and again until the startling final moment.

At Work at the Partners Work 3According to the book It’s a Hit!, Levin based the role of Sidney partly upon himself. Following his success with No Time for Sergeants, which starred Andy Griffith and ran for two years, Levin found it tough coming up with a follow-up. The comedy Critic’s Choice had a modest run in 1960, but the thrillers Dr. Cook’s Garden (1967) and Veronica’s Room (1975) flopped, as did Interlock from 1958, General Seeger from 1962 and the musical Drat! The Cat! from 1965.

Seeing into the Future 2But Levin resurrected his career with Deathtrap, which opened on February 26, 1978, and ran for 1,793 performances. Marian Seldes, who played Sydney’s wife, Myra, became famous for staying with the show during its entire run, not missing a single performance. Deathtrap was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play in 1978. The play was made into a 1982 film starring Michael Caine, Dyan Cannon and the late Christopher Reeve. The film caused a sensation at the time due to a kiss shared by Caine and Reeve.

Cast Takes a Bow 01“If you care to assassinate yourself with laughter, try Deathtrap,” said Time Magazine.

Performances will take place at 8 p.m. on October 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for adults at the door. The Cast Takes a Bow 02theater offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket. Tickets are available HERE or by calling 239.218.0481.

The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District.

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In spite of Deathtrap’s success, playwright Ira Levin better known for ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Stepford Wives’ (09-29-14)

iraThe Laboratory Theater of Florida opens its sixth season with Deathtrap, a five-character comedic mystery thriller that was one of the biggest hits in Broadway history and the last major example of playwright/author Ira Levin’s once-bountiful genre.

Although the tale of an aging dramatist who plots ira2to kill a young rival and steal his new play ran on Broadway for 1,793 performances and won the playwright an Edgar Award, Ira Levin captured the popular imagination with Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil.

“Combining elements of several genres — mystery, Gothic horror, science fiction and the techno-thriller — Mr. Levin’s novels conjured up a world labdeathtrap1full of quietly looming menace, in which anything could happen to anyone at any time,” wrote New York Times literary critic Margalit Fox following Levin’s death in November 0f 2007. “In short, the Ira Levin universe was a great deal like the real one, only more so: more starkly terrifying, more exquisitely mundane.

In Rosemary’s Baby (Random House, 1967), a young New York bride may have been impregnated by the Devil. With strange occurrences happening in her apartment building compliments of a satanic coven with designs on her unborn child, new bride Rosemary labdeathtrap2Woodhouse doesn’t know who to trust, including her own husband. In The Stepford Wives (Random House, 1972), the women in an idyllic suburb appear to have been replaced by complacent, preternaturally well-endowed androids. And in The Boys From Brazil (Random House, 1976), maniacal Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele plots to clone a new Hitler from the old from his base of operations in South America.

Lab Theater LogoAlthough his father wanted him to take over the family toy business, Levin wanted to be a writer all along. In his senior year of college, Ira entered a Sensational Season 6television screenwriting contest, and although he was only a runner-up, he sold his entry to the NBC television network for its Lights Out series. The episode aired in 1951.

While writing for Lights Out and The U.S. Steel Laboratory Theater Exterior 1Hour, Levin worked on his first novel, a murder mystery titled A Kiss Before Dying. Widely praised by critics for its taut construction and shifting points of view, the novel tells the story of a coldblooded, ambitious young man who murders his wealthy girlfriend, gets away with it, and becomes involved with her sister. In addition to critical acclaim and commercial success, the novel garnered Levin the Edgar Award for Best First Laboratory TheaterNovel and became a 1956 feature film starring Robert Wagner, Virginia Leith, Joanne Woodward and Mary Astor. (Matt Dillon starred in a 1991 remake.)

After a stint in the Army, Levin enjoyed some success with his adaptation of Mac Hyman’s humorous novel No Time for Sergeants, about a Gay Marriage Plays 04military recruit from the country. The Broadway production featured Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.

But subsequent productions largely floundered. His greatest disappointments may have been the 1965 musical Drat! That Cat!, a comedy about a thief. Not only did he write the book for the play, Levin also wrote all the lyrics for the music. The show ran for only a few performances before it closed.

Sidney and Clifford 1By contrast, Levin thrived as a novelist. Roman Polanski, of course, made Rosemary’s Baby into a frightening feature film starring Mia Farrow as Rosemary and John Cassavetes as her husband. More importantly, its literary and cinematic success spawned a wave of satanic-themed horror movies, including The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976). And Stepford Wives and Boys from So Much PainBrazil ignited Hollywood’s imagination and forever changed the genre of horror, sci-fi and psychological thrillers.

Times critic Margalit Fox notes that Levin was bemused that that the phrase “Stepford wife” and even “Stepford” had entered the English lexicon as an adjective denoting anything robotic or acquiescent. He was not amused, however, at the Dallas Stobb 01tide of popular Satanism his work appeared to unleash. “I feel guilty that ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ led to ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Omen,’” he told The Los Angeles Times in 2002. “A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don’t believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn’t been so many of these books. Of course,” he was quick to add, “I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks.”

In spite of the overwhelming success of Rosemary’s Baby, Stepford Wives, Boys from Brazil and Deathtrap, or perhaps because of it, Levin wrote only two more novels during his Scott Carpenter 01lifetime. Sliver (1991) told the story of a woman being watched by the owner of her high-tech apartment building, and was later turned into a movie starring Sharon Stone. And in 1998, Levin tried to capitalize on his earlier success with Son of Rosemary: The Sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, but it didn’t capture readers’ interest as much as the original.

Cindi Heimberg 02Ira Levin died at the age of 78 of a heart attack on November 12, 2007 in his New York City apartment. Even after his death, his books have remained popular. In 2010 Corsair Publishing reissued several of his novels in paperback, including Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives.

Treat yourself to the genius of Ira Levin. Performances of Deathtrap take place at 8 p.m. on October 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for adults at the door. The theater offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket. Tickets are available HERE or by calling 239.218.0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District.

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‘Deathtrap’ director Ken Bryant promises great evening of theater that will keep you guessing (10-01-14)

Ken Bryant as Scrooge 1If you loved playing Clue growing up (“I know, I know, it was Colonel Mustard in the Study with a wrench”) or ever got swept up in solving a killing aboard the local Murder Mystery Train, then director Ken Bryant knows you are absolutely, positively going to thoroughly enjoy Lab Theater’s production of Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, which opens Friday night in the River District. “It’s going to be a great evening of theater,” effuses Bryant. “The play is full of plot twists that keep you guessing – although the audience is told everything at the very Ken Bryant as Scrooge 4beginning of the play. They just don’t realize that until the end.”

Playwright Ira Levin uses a literary device known as foreshadowing to great effect in this “unexpected comedic thriller.” In fact, Levin (Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil), creates a character by the name of Helga for this very purpose. A psychic, Helga Ken Bryant as Scrooge 3makes predictions and issues dire warnings that foretell the characters’ futures. “The only problem is that she’s only half right,” chuckles Bryant. Which means that it’s up to the audience to figure out where she gets it wrong.

“As a director and as an actor, it’s fun to see how things weave together.”

Of course, Bryant hastens to add that a large part of what makes the Lab Theater’s reprisal of labdeathtrap1Deathtrap work to perfection is its terrific cast. Scott Carpenter (Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, Glengarry Glen Ross) plays Sidney; Dallas Stobb (Mr. Marmalade, BUG) is Clifford; Jeffrey Schmitt (Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, Barefoot in the Park, Dial M for Murder) is Porter; and Cindy Hindburg appears as Helga.

Ken Bryant has spent a lifetime in theater, designing, directing, acting and teaching theatre in colleges across the country. As its Artistic/Executive Director, Ken ran The Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center in Key West. labdeathtrap2He served as stage manager at the Miami City Ballet. He even staged an opera (The Marriage of Figaro) in Poland. His theatrical adaptations of classical theater plays are plentiful and are still being enjoyed and workshopped for college students across the United States.

Dr. Bryant joined the Lab Theater family when he played the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father in Hamlet. Laboratory Theater Exterior 1Since then, he has directed Five Kinds of Silence, The Nosemaker’s Apprentice, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Amadeus, A Christmas Carol, and, most recently, Mr. Marmalade, the tale of a precocious 4-year-old who copes with an absentee father, neglectful mother and promiscuous babysitter by concocting a host of abusive and morally bankrupt imaginary friends.

Acting roles have included Brabantio in Othello, Laboratory TheaterSkelly in The Rimers of Eldritch, Wulfric in The Nosemaker’s Apprentice, the Ghost in Hamlet, the infamous Ruckley in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Stanley in Death of a Salesman and every role in his charming solo performance of A Christmas Carol last December, where he converted Dickens’ classic novella from lighthearted holiday season fare into a powerful Cast Takes a Bow 01collaboration with the audience in the tradition of performance art.

In addition to his impressive creative resume, Dr. Bryant holds a master’s degree in Shakespeare and a doctoral degree in Dramatic Criticism.

Treat yourself to the genius of Ira Levin. Scott Carpenter 02Performances of Deathtrap take place at 8 p.m. on October 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for adults at the door. The theater offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket. Tickets are available HERE or by calling 239.218.0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District.

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‘Deathtrap keeping Lab Theater actor Scott Carpenter on his theatrical toes (10-02-14)

scott carpenterDeathtrap opens tonight at the Lab Theater in downtown Fort Myers. The show takes its name from a play titled Deathtrap that is written by a theater student by the name of Clifford. By all accounts, the play promises to be a smash hit on Broadway and every character in Levin’s story wants to pass the story off as his or her own, especially Clifford’s teacher, Sidney, who is played by Scott Carpenter.

“Sidney was once a highly successful playwright, but he hasn’t had a hit in many years,” expounds Carpenter. Having once basked in the bright lights of Broadway himself, Sidney will do anything to resurrect his stagnant career – including stealing Clifford’ work and committing murder to cover up the theft.

Tom and Jerry 2Everyone has been desperate enough at times to do something shady, immoral or even outright illegal to make a buck, score a promotion or win a victory. There are a host of professional athletes who’ve built Hall of Fame careers through the clandestine use of amphetamines, steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, and the vast majority of amateur and college athletes admitted in a recent poll that if they were legal, they’d use PEDs to gain a pro sports career even if it meant shortening their life expectancy by five Glen Roma Rossor more years. And politicians from Vice President Joe Bidon to Rand Paul, Scott Brown and even Russia’s Vladimir Putin have been known to lift a line or two. But for someone as self-absorbed, egomaniacal and manipulative as Sidney, mere theft of intellectual property is child’s play. Nothing is out of bounds. Not even a murder or two.

“It is, after all, a thriller,” reminds Carpenter. Perhaps, but then again Carpenter’s character is as Roma, Levene and Williamsonmuch of a villain as he is a protagonist. “Playing Sidney is definitely a huge challenge,” Scott acknowledges. Not only is his line count imposing, but playing such a multi-layered character proves to be intellectually and emotionally intense. “If forces me to really be on my toes. I can’t simply deliver lines of dialogue because what Sidney’s thinking and what he’s saying are often two completely different things.

Carpenter, who has a B.A. in Theatre from The William Paterson University and is also a member of SAG/AFTRA, was seen most recently on the Lab Theater stage in a variety of roles in Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays (Scott Carpenter Takes a Bowhe was Nate in Jordan Harrison’s The Revision, Oliver in Doug Wright’s On Facebook, and Jerry in Neil LaBute’s Strange Fruit). Before that, he starred as Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross, George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Billy Flynn in CHICAGO, Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain and Kenneth Talley, Jr. in Fifth of July. Directing credits include Jekyll & Hyde, the Musical, MAME, The Children’s Hour, Anywhere from Here, and Steel Magnolias. He will also be directing Same Time, Next Year later this season, in March.

Scott Carpenter 02But for now, obviously, Carpenter is dialed in on Deathtrap. “It’s such a clever, well-written script,” says Scott, who is eager to get on stage.

Treat yourself to the genius of Ira Levin. Performances of Deathtrap take place at 8 p.m. on October 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for adults at the door. The theater offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket. Tickets are available HERE or by calling 239.218.0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District.

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If you think you know what’s coming, ‘Deathtrap’ will make you guess again (10-05-14)

At Work at the Partners Work 1Ira Levin must have been laughing at his Smith Carona typewriter when he wrote Deathtrap in 1978. Forget all the wonderful directors who’ve taken the play to the stage. Forget all the talented actors who’ve played Sidney, his wife, Myra, Sidney’s former student and Deathtrap playwright, Clifford Anderson, Sidney’s lawyer, Porter Milgrim, and psychic Helga ten Dorp. Through the At Work at the Partners Work 3expediency of director and actors, Levin spars directly with the audience, bobbing and weaving, feinting and jabbing – using every trick and artifice to keep the audience off balance and guessing (usually incorrectly) what will happen next.

Have you ever watched a horror film and found yourself yelling at the pretty blond, “No. No. Don’t go into the basement! Nothing good ever happens in the basement!” By making his characters appear Scott Carpenter 01like flatheaded fops walking into an obvious trap, Levin causes the Deathtrap audience to have an identical experience. But then the lights go out, the lightning flashes, and Levin pulls a deft switcheroo, much to the audience’s delight.

The one constant throughout the story is the larceny that permeates the hearts of all the characters save one (sorry, can’t disclose which Dallas Stobb 01one without issuing a spoiler alert, although you can rule out the lawyer since the term “honest lawyer” is a well-recognized oxymoron). And the Lab Theater cast is up to the task of playing characters who must simultaneously effect incredulous vacuity and hyper-sophisticated connivance and duplicity.

It all starts with Scott Carpenter, who sets the machinations in motion from the opposite side of a partner’s desk that has no second occupant. Carpenter’s interpretation of the once luminous Sidney Bruhl is fascinating. His Sidney is pedantic and high-brow, comfortable in his Westport, Connecticut converted barn filled with weapons and show posters that harken back to Try These On 02his glory days on Broadway. Carpenter really makes the audience believe he so desperately wants to reprise his past successes that he’ll resort to murder. But most of what Carpenter’s Sidney says is a carefully-concocted ruse to veil his true intent and motives (which must be left unsaid in order not to give away the story or its denouement). And he doesn’t just deceive and manipulate the other characters, he keeps the audience in the dark with the exception of a brief encounter with his lawyer, Porter Milgrim.

Angie Koch is convincing as Myra Bruhl, the devoted, supportive albeit misguided wife who has convinced herself Seeing into the Future 4that her husband will eventually produce another theatrical hit if her money can just hold out long enough. Although Deathtrap is more comedy/farce than thriller, poor Angie/Myra has nothing to smile about. But that’s okay. Koch is the queen of the pained, disappointed and horrified expression, putting her in the company of comedic actresses like Lea You are not burning my script 02Remini (Carrie Heffernen in King of Queens) and Patricia Heaton (Debra Barone in Everyone Loves Raymond).

Actor Dallas Stobb turns in a strong performance as the seemingly gullible Clifford Anderson. Stobb’s Clifford is as ambitious as Seabiscuit with blinders. While just as his drive and determination is fueled by his passion and emotion, it is undermined by his proclivity toward flashes of tempestuous rage and anger. Stobb obviously excelled in his stage combat workshops, and his Battle Royale 2commanding physicality injects a true dramatic counter-balance to the antics of the pedantic Sidney and the overly-theatrical psychic Helga ten Dorp.

When he wrote Deathtrap, Levin clearly intended the character of Helga ten Dorp to provide comedic relief through her flamboyant dress, thick Dutch accent, and exaggerated facial expressions Cindi Heimberg 01and gestures in the tradition of spoonbender Uri Geller, fake Philippino psychi surgeons Eleuterio Terte and Tony Agpaoa, and Edgar Cayce. However, modern reprisals of the play have tended to tone down Helga and convert the character into a stage version of psychic investigator Noreen Renier. But Cindi Heimberg and director Ken Bryant have no qualms about letting Lab Theater’s Helga ten Dorp be as fun, quirky and out-there as Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo.

Scott Carpenter 02Jeffrey Schmitt makes the most of his role of the Bruhl’s lawyer. He certainly looks the part. He has that “sharp, useless look” that Pretty Woman’s Vivien claims is a surefire way to tell if someone’s a lawyer. Schmitt acted through high school and college before taking a sabbatical that lasted more than 30 years. He was in last season’s Death of a Salesman, and he’s a welcome addition to the Lab Theater family of actors.

Cast Takes a Bow 03So much more could be said about the play itself and the actors’ performances, but not without giving away large parts of the plot and characterization that they and Ira Levin have worked so hard to disguise and conceal. So you’re just going to have to go to Lab Theater and see this play for yourself. You won’t be sorry. Betrayal is, as ira2director Ken Bryant unabashedly notes, a fun evening of good theater. Remaining performances take place at 8 p.m. on October 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for adults at the door. The theater offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket. Tickets are available HERE or by calling 239.218.0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District.

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Dallas Stobb is Deathtrap’s Clifford Anderson (10-06-14)

Dallas Stobb 02Deathtrap opened at the Lab Theater last Friday night. Actor Dallas Stobb turned in a strong performance as the seemingly gullible Clifford Anderson. Stobb’s Clifford is as ambitious as Seabiscuit with blinders. But while just as his drive and determination is fueled by his passion, his aspirations are undermined by his proclivity toward flashes of tempestuous rage and anger. Stobb obviously excelled in his stage combat workshops, and his commanding physicality injects a true dramatic counter-balance to the antics of the pedantic Sidney and the overly-theatrical psychic Helga ten Dorp.

Dallas Stobb 01Stobb is a long-time friend of the Lab Theater, last appearing as a cactus in Mr. Marmalade. Lab Theater audiences will also remember him as Peter in BUG and as Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Dallas is appreciative of his parents for their unflagging support and extends a verbal high-five to everyone who turns out for Deathtrap.

Remaining performances take place at 8 p.m. on October 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for adults at the door. The theater offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket. Tickets are available HERE or by calling 239.218.0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District.

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Actress Cindi Heimberg brings elements of farce to portrayal of ‘Deathtrap’ psychic Helga ten Dorp (10-11-14) 

So Much PainPlaying now through October 18 at the Laboratory Theater of Florida is Deathtrap, a comic study of those most ancient of human foibles and human defects:  greed, envy, lust, pride, avarice, sloth, and deceit. “Interest in the [play] depends on its surprises, but its delight grows basically out of the human characteristics of its performers,” noted renowned New York Times movie critic Roger Seeing into the Future 2Ebert in 1982. “Thrillers like this don’t always bother to pay attention to the human nature of their characters (for example, the Agatha Christie omnibus whodunits, with their cardboard suspects). Deathtrap, however, provides a fascinating, quirky character in Sidney Bruhl, and two strong supporting performances in the guise of his goofy, screaming wife and his talented, devious student. The dialogue is witty without being Neil Simonized. The sets are so good they’re almost Seeing into the Future 4distracting. The only distraction is the strange character [of Helga ten Dorp], a next-door neighbor who’s a busybody, snooping psychic who sniffs down false leads. We don’t know why she’s even in the play, until it’s much too late.”

At the risk of contradicting such a pre-eminent movie and theater critic, the Lab Theater audience Cindi Heimberg 02will quickly apprehend that Helga ten Dorp serves as both a farcical foil and a theatrical device designed to simultaneously engage the audience and confound their attempts to figure out whodunit to whom and why. Although many actresses who’ve taken up the role of Helga ten Dorp have opted to understate the character’s extravagant and almost slapstick affectations, Lab Theater’s Cindi Heimberg embraces these aspects of the zany psychic through her unabashed use of exaggerated facial expressions, movements and gestures which, collectively, reveal ten Dorp as a vain, venal, infantile, neurotic egomaniac.

Battle Royale 1As playwright Ira Levin clearly understood, farce almost always achieves a cathartic release of laughter. It was a device that was hugely popular around the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s and, as John Caird argues in his illuminating book Theatre Craft, “a good farce obliges the audience to believe both in the characters and the events to the point where laughter is their only recourse.” While Deathtrap Cindi Heimberg 01is not itself a farce, Cindi Heimberg casts ten Dorp in this guise through her delightfully stylized portrayal, which at times threatens to steal the stage from the more sedate and comedically subtle characters of Sidney, Clifford, Myra and Porter.

Cindi Heimberg teaches full-time and has been in nine shows over the past four years, including Rumors, Barefoot in the Park, Men are Dogs, Musical Comedy Murders of the 1940s, and Last Cast Takes a Bow 03of the Red-Hot Lovers. Remaining performances take place at 8 p.m. on October 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 19. Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for adults at the door. The theater offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military, at $18.50 per ticket. Tickets are available HERE or by calling 239.218.0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District.

 

 

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