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Fast-Paced Comedy Comes to MLT Stage

‘Nana’s Naughty Knickers’ packs laughs, grown-up fun

By Bonnijean Cooney Adams
The Tube City Almanac
March 08, 2024
Posted in: Entertainment

Cast members of McKeesport Little Theater's latest production, the comedy "Nana's Naughty Knickers," in front from left, are Terri Davis as Vera Walters, Matt Tracy as Tom O'Grady, Emily Buckel as Bridget Charles, and Lindsey DiBattista as Sylvia Charles, aka Nana. In back are Nate Perrin as Clair Schmidt, Cory Sigler as Gil Schmidt, and Mandy Eckenrode as Heather Van Pree. (Photos by Bonnijean Cooney Adams for Tube City Almanac)

If you go...


“Nana’s Naughty Knickers”

Where: McKeesport Little Theater, 1614 Coursin St.,
www.mckeesportlittletheater.com, (412) 673-1100

When: Friday, March 8, Saturday, March 9, Friday, March 15, and
Saturday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays March 10 and March 17 at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $15 for adults, $12 for students, available through the MLT
website or by calling the theater.

Law student Bridget Charles has no idea what awaits her when she moves in with her grandmother in New York City for the summer.

But she soon finds out her Nana is running a questionable business from her apartment, providing sexy lingerie for senior citizens.

Written by Katherine DiSavino , the comedy “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” opens Friday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. at McKeesport Little Theater.

MLT board members and actors Eddie Kunz and Sierra Mitchell teamed up, under the guidance of executive producer Jan Gerber, to co-produce the theater’s latest show.

Set in Nana’s apartment and with a small cast, the play seems well suited for MLT’s intimate space – no pun intended.

While Kunz is a relative newcomer (2022) to MLT, he has appeared as an actor in productions such as “Exit the Body,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” and as a singer one year and emcee the next for Little Theater Love Songs, plus in “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.”

“We showed interest in producing and the board voted to give us the opportunity for ‘Nana’s,’ “ Kunz said.  
“I was not familiar with ‘Nana’s’ before it was pitched to the board, but hearing about it I thought it might be a good opportunity to learn how to produce a play at MLT, and I would have taken this opportunity no matter the play.”

Mitchell has graced the stage in multiple MLT productions.

Through those experiences, Mitchell and Kunz were able to become members of the theater’s board of directors, which has the ultimate say in what plays and musicals are produced each season.

Wait! Wasn't there a bookshelf at that exact spot before? What can possibly be happening in Sylvia Charles' apartment? (Photos by Bonnijean Cooney Adams for Tube City Almanac)

Mitchell said she had never seen or heard of “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” before the board started play selection.

“When reading it for play selection, I actually chose against it, just plainly because I never heard of it, and quite frankly, as a performer first, I did not think it was for me,” she said.

“However, I am so glad things came out the way they did, because not only is this show hilarious, but the cast and crew attached to it are just phenomenal to work with,” Mitchell said.

“I am actually the chair for the theater arts committee at MLT, now anyway,” Mitchell said. “I was just a member at first. But how the selection process works is we all research briefly on a long list of plays and musicals created by the demand of our audience and acting pool, then we pick our top 10 favorites.

“Out of that top 10, we research more in-depth and narrow it down to a top 5,” she explained. “Then, it's up to the board through our research to pick which plays fit best into our season, and ‘Nana's’ was just a perfect fit!

From left, Emily Buckel as Bridget Charles, Terri Davis as Vera Walters, and Lindsey DiBattista as Sylvia Charles discuss a business situation and possible solutions. Below, Matt Tracy as Tom O'Grady, a new police officer on the beat in New York City, listens to a request from landlord Gil Schmidt, portrayed by Cory Sigler. (Photos by Bonnijean Cooney Adams for Tube City Almanac)

“Eddie and I divided up the responsibilities based on what days we would be there as well as who had the most free time,” Mitchell said. “We both took on about the same amount of workload. It was nice producing such a small play because there wasn't really a need to have two producers, but it was nice to learn alongside each other.”

MLT veteran Logan Tomko returned to direct the show, agreeing with Mitchell and Kunz that “Nana’s” was a good choice for this season.

“This cast is so good,” he said during a recent rehearsal. “They all have a great dynamic.”

Tomko said he always had a passion for the nitty-gritty details of a show, and as a director, he has the responsibility of perfecting those details for the whole cast, not just for his character as an actor.

The director said he also loves New York City, and after doing some math that established Nana’s (Lindsey DiBattista as Sylvia Charles) age at 83, determined the play is set in 1993.

“It has a sitcom feel,” Tomko said. “We have a mix of actors I’ve worked with previously and those I did not.”

DiBattista, who is nowhere near 83 in real life but is aged to look the part through a wig and makeup, said when she auditioned, she had the role of Sylvia’s best friend Vera Walters in mind.

“I loved Vera’s role,” DiBattista said. “But during my audition, they liked the physicality I brought to it. They also asked me how comfortable I was wearing something skimpy (necessary as a model for her lingerie company).”

Now embracing the Sylvia Charles role, DiBattista said the most challenging part was learning her many lines.

Although Sylvia and Vera are best friends, DiBattista said they are “completely opposite.”

“I’m usually an ensemble player,” MLT veteran Terri Davis said, reflecting on her parts in “SpongeBob the Musical” and “Drowsy Chaperone,” among others. “I really wanted to come back here (to MLT)” and was cast as Vera.

“This is a fun run,” Davis said. “My favorite part, I would say, is when I come out in the lingerie.”

Emily Buckel, who plays the unsuspecting granddaughter Bridget Charles, said she auditioned because she and director Tomko went to college together and she wanted to work with him again.

“I definitely had this part in mind,” she said.

Initially supporting her grandmother running a business, the law student finds herself trying to talk Nana and Vera out of some of their plans once she learns the details, including warning them that what they are doing most likely is illegal.

“My favorite part, without giving anything away, is probably when I run across the couch,” Buckel said.

Terri Davis as best friend Vera Walters and Lindsey DiBattista as "Nana" Sylvia Charles fear there may have been a mixup with their latest order.

Cory Sigler returns to MLT, where he has acted and directed for many years, to portray Gil Schmidt, the landlord for Nana’s building.

As the landlord, he is determined to find any excuse to evict Nana.

“I’ve always had a great experience with this theater,” Sigler said, “and thought I’d like to do a comedy. My character is only interested in dollar signs and the bottom line. This is a rent-controlled apartment, and I’ll do anything I can to get her out.”

Sigler said he likes the twist at the end of the show.

In his eviction efforts, Gil Schmidt seeks ammunition, in part, from Matt Tracy as Tom O’Grady, a new member of the New York City police force who has befriended Sylvia.

“I am really, really enjoying this,” Tracy said of his role. “I’m playing it as being a cop new to New York City, but that I’m a police academy graduate who could have lived and worked somewhere else, so there’s not a need for a New York accent.”

Through checking in on Sylvia Charles, Officer O’Grady meets Bridget, and their relationship evolves from there.

Always ready to enjoy fresh-baked goodies available in the apartment, Tracy said one of his challenges is delivering his lines with a face full of cookies, plus up-close-and-personal interactions with Bridget.

Tracy’s also an MLT veteran of shows such as “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “Rocky Horror Show.”

He said he is happy to work with Mandy Eckenrode again.

Although her character Heather Van Pree only appears in the second act, Eckenrode makes an unforgettable entrance as an “employee” of Nana’s business, or on her quest to retrieve a certain box.

“I did ‘Deathtrap’ with Logan last year,” Eckenrode said. “This show is a lot of fun. We’re all different ages, and we all get along well. It’s a good farce with a lot of physical humor. We have paintings that move, clothing that pops up. Halfway through Act II, Heather comes in like a tornado!”

MLT newcomer Nate Perrin said he did a show with Mitchell previously and heard about “Nana’s.” He plays Clair Schmidt, the landlord’s wife, plus a deliveryman for the lingerie business supplies.

Playing Clair involves wearing a pair of red high-heeled shoes, which Perrin said he’s adapted to throughout rehearsals.

He said his favorite part of the show is in interactions  with Sigler,

“When I say my lines to Cory, there’s always a good laugh,” Perrin said.

Mitchell said for her as co-producer, the most challenging part was all the communication.

“I am a very good organizer, but trying to not only keep myself organized, but everyone else as well, was tough,” she said. “But doing it for a couple of months, I think I got the hang of it now.

“Being a performer really helped in this role, since I knew all the lingo and I knew what had to be done -- making sure all the bases were checked along the way so we weren't missing any pieces,” she said.  “Also making sure everyone is healthy and safe.”

“Co-producing with Sierra has been a good collaborative experience,” Kunz said. “Sierra took a lot of initiative with co-producing and handled most of the day-to-day jobs, including communicating with the cast. She ordered the props and made sure we were as organized as we could be.

“I have done a lot of the back-end stuff such as marketing, making sure the actors are doing ok by checking in on them, taking care of paperwork and the like,” Kunz said. “I believe that we have both learned a lot.”

Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a freelance contributor. She can be reached at adamsclick@aol.com.

Originally published March 08, 2024.

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