When it comes to planning the perfect environment for a Mountain Community Theater (MCT) performance, Director Kathie Kratochvil’s got game. While the majority of the shows are staged at Park Hall in Ben Lomond, the upcoming “Now and Then” is taking place at the Santa Cruz County Actors’ Theater in downtown Santa Cruz.
“This is the last play of the 2022 season, but it was supposed to be the last play of 2020. Covid pushed that season and all of its performances back on the calendar, and so here we are,” said Kratochvil as she gestured toward the theater.
MCT receives hundreds of play proposals, and as vice president of the group, Kratochvil helps to oversee the decision tree when it comes to narrowing down prospective scripts.
“We have up to five people that read each proposed play; if it’s given a thumbs-up, it moves on to the next round, and ‘Now and Then’ did just that,” said Kratochvil.
MCT performs 12 different plays in four genres during their season: three each of musicals, dramas and comedies, with the fourth category being other. According to Kratochvil, that’s where “Now and Then” fits snugly in the MCT world.
In terms of storyline, “Now and Then” is a slightly different take on general life decisions, and the regrets that inevitably follow a turn down the wrong path—a slight nod towards those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that were popular in the ’80s and ’90s. Kratochvil refers to it as the “coulda-woulda-shoulda, and the different pathways we take in life.”
The tenor of this play, though, demands a setting that is more intimate and homey and allows the audience to really feel as though they are in the bar where the conversations are taking place.
Enter the Santa Cruz County Actors’ Theatre, which has compact stadium seating overlooking a stage that looks nothing like a stage at all—the feeling is one of familiarity and comfort—and offers a desire to settle in for some outstanding storytelling that, according to Kratochvil, is “an unusual piece that is quirky, fun, romantic, and very heartfelt. Sometimes plays just call for a smaller venue, and this place is perfect.”
“Now and Then” features just four actors: W. Scott Whisler, Paul Alexander Hughes, Sarah Kauffman Michael, and Tiffany Cesarin.
Production manager, communications pro and costume designer Susan McKay was effusive about the feelings the play evokes.
“It’s very heartwarming and authentic, and there’s a warmth to the set design and the characters that feels like a cozy hug,” said McKay.
In terms of holding the performances in Santa Cruz, McKay acknowledged that it is a way for MCT to expand its reach.
“There are people that just don’t want to come all the way up to the mountains to see a performance, so this is a great way to expand our reach, and let the public know that we have really great theater in Ben Lomond, and this is just a taste of it. Amazing theater is happening,” said McKay.
She’s equally excited about the all-female production team, including Stage Manager Mollie Whisler.
“We’ve worked on many productions together, and we’re a force to be reckoned with. We put on fantastic theater, and we’re a great team within a great community,” said McKay.
When asked about the message of the play, McKay didn’t hesitate: “Deep in your heart, you truly know what you want.”
Kratochvil referred to the statement by the playwright, Sean Grennan: “It’s all just moments, and those moments, when you line them up together, we call that life.”
As for Whisler, his perspective on the moral of the story is, “You can’t regret your choices, because in the end, it makes no difference. You can’t wish you did something differently four years ago; ultimately, you only have right now.”
“Now and Then” runs from Nov. 18-Dec. 11 at Santa Cruz Actors’ Theatre, 1001 Center Street. Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, with Sunday Matinees at 2pm. One “pay what you can” performance will be offered on Sunday, Dec. 4th at 8pm. There will be a talk back on Sunday, Nov. 27 after the performance. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com; pricing is $27 for general admission and $21 for students/seniors.