Whether they’re Democrats, Republicans or really more of a Nader guy, audience members will still be able to laugh at “A Tiny Little Secret” when it debuts at Dickens Parlour Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 18.
The latest play from local playwright Bob Davis and the Bethany Area Repertory Theatre (BART), the story may center around the election process, but takes no discernible political stance. In fact, according to director Oksana Farber, the play is meant to serve more as comedic relief from the whole ordeal than anything else.
“This is pure fun,” Farber said. “It mimics, of course, the entire political and election process, but it is done in a tremendously funny way. It won’t cast a shadow at all on what is going on right now.”
As the title suggests, in the play everyone seems to have a “tiny little secret” after the death of Howie Newton’s grandfather, who along with his wife, Maggie, and an aspiring-CPA devises a plan to save on inheritance tax — which not only includes maintaining that his late grandfather is still alive, but also running for a council seat, and all the campaign characters hiding secrets of their own along the way.
To demonstrate the play’s good-natured humor, Farber highlighted some of the subjects of interest without giving away the plot: “I’ll just throw a couple of words at you,” she said with a smirk, “…political campaign, Viagra, infidelity, IRS.”
Farber will be making her directorial debut with the production, but the retired corporate exec is no stranger to the arts or even to the stage. Hailing from New York before she retired to the area around two years ago, she got her start as a child actor at a theater on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, with a Ukrainian community theater. But despite her natural talents, she ended up following the advice of her father.
“I remember the director telling my father I ought to pursue [acting], and my father said: ‘She’s becoming a math major!’ and that’s what happened,” Farber said with a laugh. “I used to play boy’s parts, because we could never get boys. I did quite a bit of singing, but outside of that, just started living my life.”
While she ended up finding a great deal of success in the corporate world, serving as both chief securities officer and vice-president of human resources, Farber would eventually return to acting, landing a role in Davis’ “Good King Succotash” last year at the advice of her husband — who, somewhat ironically, isn’t much of a theater fan.
“I happened to be walking by the Dickens Theatre last year. My husband was not feeling well. He finally said to me, ‘Get out of the house. Do something for yourself,’” Farber recalled. “He’s tremendously supportive of anything I’ve ever done. You know how they say opposites attract? Well, they do, baby! We’ve been married 46 years. It works for us.”
Farber walked into auditions that day and came out with a role, getting to know BART and Dickens well along the way. Eventually, she’d join the BART Board of Directors as the treasurer and contribute to the organization’s plan to establish a scholarship fund for local students looking to pursue the arts. This past summer, however, Farber looked to take on her newest venture, when Davis approached her with the script for “ATLS.”
“Oksana came to us last year as an actress and has since served on the Board of Directors, and now takes the difficult task of being a show director,” Davis explained. “I could not be more pleased to have her direct what is one of my favorite plays as her debut. No one is more dedicated to BART than Oksana.”
“When he asked me to read the script, I was enthralled,” she said. “Bob’s talent is collectively putting together all of these characters together to tell a good story — it’s very humorous, very very clever and very up-to-date.”
Despite the excitement, however, Farber would eventually have to make the difficult decision to postpone the production, when she came to the realization that she didn’t have the right cast for a few roles that required younger actors.
“There’s only so much that makeup can do,” she joked. “It was very difficult for me to say ‘We’re not quitting. We’re not canceling. But it’s imperative we have to postpone.’ And we did. It was a little disappointing, but I’m very glad that we waited, because now it’s a stellar group of really dedicated, skilled people.”
As stated, the delay turned out to have worked out for the best when “ATLS” was resurrected last month. After finding the right actors for the job, for which Farber said her previous HR experience came in very handy, “ATLS” finally began rehearsals last month, with the cast including both a few of the usual suspects, as well as some newcomers turning out to make for an undeniable chemistry.
“The rehearsals are going very well. We crack up every time we get together. It’s a wonderful team,” said Farber. “When I sat down and I read ‘ATLS’ for the first time, I had the luxury of time, to sit back and immerse myself into each individual character and ascertain just exactly what it was that I was hoping to get out of someone else playing in that role.”
In addition to her HR experience and talented cast, Farber said that she’s been tapping into her own experiences as actor to get the job done, but also noted that “ATLS” assistant director and BART veteran Rusty Hesse has been instrumental during the transition.
“I really appreciate his help. It’s wonderful,” she said. “He’s able to fill in all the things that I’m thinking but I don’t have an opportunity yet to do or say.”
The real test, of course, will be Thursday, Feb. 18, when the play and Farber both make their debuts. But first-time director or not, Farber is confident that, along with the dynamic cast, her past experiences will guide her through her newfound calling.
“I’m serious about what I do,” she said. “I believe it’s the director’s job to make sure that everyone tells their own story within that play to the best of their ability.
“I get a great deal of satisfaction watching people do things and perhaps be able to finish them or succeed in them because maybe I played a tiny little role in helping them achieve that goal. I do understand how this type of performance and this type of theater brings a lot of culture and a lot of fun and a lot of entertainment to an already wonderful community.”
“A Tiny Little Secret” will have six shows at the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville, spanning from Thursday,
Feb. 18, to Saturday, Feb. 27. For more on Dickens or for tickets, visit
www.dptmagic.com. For more on BART, check out their Facebook page at