As long as there’s been theater, there’s been this line: “The show must go on.”
That also applies to community theater, and that was the case last weekend for the Rio Rancho Players’ “A Little Piece of Heaven” production at the Avix Arts Performance Center on Sara Road.
The Players’ May play was set in a small-town antique/collectibles shop, ultimately “all about treasures lost and treasures found,” Players founder Mel Sussman said.
Not only its founder, Sussman also was the director and producer of the show, and found himself literally, knowing his show must go on.
He was pinch-hitting in the role of Jared, a 49-year-old man fearing his 50th birthday — and not knowing his gorgeous young wife and friends have planned a surprise birthday party for him.
Sussman is a septuagenarian, so, he was asked, what was it like being 49 again?
Of course, he soon knew his lines; Sussman could have stepped in for any male member of the cast, except, “the boy.”
“I had to do it for the last 1½ weeks of the show… my guy playing Jared, unfortunately, came down with COVID,” Sussman explained. “I didn’t have anybody else to fill the role. Obviously, without Jared, we don’t have any way to do the play.”
So, as Sussman said, “We fooled them a little bit; it was really a last-second thing. I did double-duty for the last week and a half.”
Oddly, the Players’ first show, “Our Town,” in 2021 also needed Sussman to take a role.
“I took a part for a week, but had more time,” he said. “This was life repeating itself. That’s the truth — the way it works… the show must go on.”
All in all, it was well done. It can’t be compared to “Hamilton,” but that’s not the point of community theater.
“In my perspective,” Sussman said, “the audience came away with good reviews… I was incredibly pleased with what they saw.”
What they saw were some great performances, with the cast knowing its lines and places on the single set, learning that almost every character received, in his/her own way, “A Little Piece of Heaven.”
Kudos to Isaac Carrillo, who plays Michael Caine (“Not the actor,” we hear) — a “biker” of sorts down on his luck when his motorcycle breaks down in town and he’s also broke — has the most lines in the play — about 360, Sussman says. The character ends the performance by finding a new love.
“It’s the second time (Carrillo) had the lead,” Sussman said.
He could have it again, based on his talent. Sussman hopes to expand the membership in RRP, and will schedule a membership meeting in July.
The next plays are “Almost, Maine,” and tentatively, Sussman says, “Plaza Suite.”
“I’m real excited about where we’re headed,” Sussman said, and he should be.
The group may even find a different, and larger, venue more suited to what it’s doing.
“Over 600 patrons (came) … and that’s really good, especially during Memorial Day,” he said. “Saturday night (May 28) was a sellout.
“It’s not Popejoy,” he said.
But it’s not intended to be.
Check it out. A good time will be had by all.