Back to the rails at WLT

Comedy full of zany passengers opens Friday at former train station

Posted: March 1, 2014

The Winchester Star

Nancy Ticknor (right) of Winchester portrays Mrs. Myrtle Clark, while Brian Terrell (center) of Martinsburg, W.Va., is the conductor and Richard Graham of Winchester is the porter in Winchester Little Theatre's production of “Twentieth Century,” which will open on Friday. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Cast members rehearse for Winchester Little Theatre's production of “Twentieth Century,” which will open on Friday. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Josh Criss of Capon Bridge, W.Va., portrays George Smith and Debbie Miles of Frederick County is Lily in the play.

WINCHESTER -- The craziness train has left the station and all of the passengers are aboard the 20th Century Limited.

With a train full of passengers, many of them working for different outcomes, the ride from Chicago to New York will be anything but smooth in Winchester Little Theatre’s production of “Twentieth Century,” director Roxie Orndorff said.

The play will be presented from Friday to March 9, March 13 to 15, and March 20 to 22 in the theater at 315 W. Boscawen St.

Leading the zaniness is Broadway producer Oscar Jaffe, whose last three shows have flopped and who desperately needs a hit.

Knowing his former leading lady Lily Garland, now a Hollywood star, is on the train, he is determined to sign her for his next show.

“There are a lot of different characters that Oscar encounters on the train and they all influence whether or not he gets Lily signed,” said Orndorff, a Berry-ville resident.

The play, set in 1933, is a comedy based on a play by Charles Bruce Milholland and adapted by Ken Ludwig, Orndorff said. The veteran WLT director has worked with many dramas and dramedies and was ready for a full-out comedy, she said. “I took a leap this time.”

Richard Bennett of Winchester portrays Oscar. “He is egomaniacal and the king of the world, at least in his own mind. He believes he is the best if not the only real Broadway producer even with the recent struggles, and he only needs Lily back to prove that to people.”

Period plays are great to work on, said Bennett, who was in WLT’s 2013 production of “The Gazebo,” set in the 1950s. He loves dressing up in period costume and getting into the mindset of a different era.

“You have to look at the whole world like someone who is in the 1930s,” he said. “The story is right for its time.”

When the lights come up for the audiences, they will feel as though they are in the ’30s, said Jennifer Oliver, who plays Oscar’s manager Ida Webb. She said she feels sometimes as if she should have been born in that era and she loves working with the dialogue and clothes of the time. Ida is especially entertaining to play, since she is every guy’s best friend.

“She could have a man if she wanted, but she doesn’t need one. She plays cards, drinks liquor, and hangs with the boys,” said Oliver.

The action of the play is exciting and, like the train it is set on, fast- moving, she said. The set is comprised of two private compartments and an observation car, and getting between them sometimes can be tricky.

One of the private cars belongs to Lily and Oscar finagles to get the adjoining one, said Debbie Miles, who plays the Hollywood actress. She has found it interesting to portray the starlet, who is also a drama queen.

“She is a histrionic, everything revolves-around-me kind of person,” said Miles, who lives in Frederick County. “The drama of it, the constant swings of emotion, make it fun because it is nothing like myself.”

Although Oscar and Lily’s story is the driving force of the play, it is influenced by a large cast of 15 additional characters, including Oscar’s press agent, Lily’s agent and current lover, a conductor, porters, reporters and some zany passengers, Orndorff said.

For her, the biggest challenge was re-creating and working with three train compartments as the very tight space for the setting of the play. She loves the results and their Art Deco feel, created by set designer Ralph Bloom, set dresser Rachel Smith and lighting designer and stage manager Sally Anderson.

Outfitting 17 cast members in ’30s garb was no easy feat either, she said, and is due to a team led by costume designer Marian Cerwensky, with Sue Dyke creating period hairstyles.

“We always have some challenges, but we always have fun meeting them,” Orndorff said. “It takes a whole lot of volunteers to put on our productions.”


Winchester Little Theatre’s production of “Twentieth Century” will be presented from Friday to March 9, March 13 to 15, and March 20 to 22 in the theater at 315 W. Boscawen St. Tickets cost $18.75 for adults, $16.75 for seniors and $14.50 for students. Contact the box office at 540-662-3331 or For more information, visit


— Contact Laura McFarland at