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‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ by Sacramento Theatre Company

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“The Owl and the Pussycat” will open Wednesday as a two-person production in Sacramento Theatre Company’s intimate Pollock stage. The script is the only live-theater piece that TV writer Bill Manhoff has done and offers a timeless and comedic look at love – and how difficult it can be.

“Love isn’t easy, it’s always hard,” said Matt Miller, the theater’s artistic director and the director of the play. “But it can be funny when it’s somebody else.”

Miller said the play, which was originally written in the early 1960s, takes two very different people who seem to have nothing in common and throws them together, where they develop an unmistakable mutual attraction.

“The whole thing keeps you on your toes,” said Lyndsy Kail, who plays the part of Doris. “You’re not sure if it’s going to be a comedy or a tragedy. You wonder if the characters are going to end up alive.”

The performance is a two-person act, and Kail said she likes that it is so dependent on the other actor, in this case Tim Orr, who plays the role of Felix.

Set in the 1960s, Miller said the play recalls the different sensibilities of the “more-innocent” time.

“The time period is appealing, and it’s enhanced with period music, costumes and settings,” Kail said.

Orr said his favorite aspect of the show is that it represents “good, old-fashioned comedy writing done by a true professional.”

According to Miller, the playwright, Bill Manhoff, was a successful TV writer, working on shows such as “Leave it to Beaver,” and “The Owl and the Pussycat” was his only shot at live performance, but it was a success, running for a year in the 1960s.

“Nothing comes close to live performance,” Miller said. “It’s never the same. It’s ephemeral. Once it’s done, it’s gone.”

In the intimate, 90-seat theater, the audience has its impact on the play, ensuring that each showing is unique.

“The audience is every bit as much a part of the show as I am,” Orr said. “The people sitting in the front row have their feet on the stage.”

The first showing is Wednesday, but opening night is Friday, Nov. 13, Miller said.

The live performances before Friday are sort of like test runs for the cast, and the audience reaction is judged to see what works and what doesn’t so the play is at its best on opening night, Miller said.

Those interested in learning more about the play can see the prologue, which will likely be given by Miller 45 minutes before the show starts.

Audiences can learn tidbits like the fact that the play was the first one to feature an interracial kiss in a Broadway romantic comedy, as Doris was played by African-American actress Diana Sands.

Despite being controversial in the ’60s, she took home a Tony Award for her performance.

The play was also made into a movie, but Miller said he doesn’t think the two bear much resemblance.

Originally, “Talley’s Folly” was scheduled to be performed instead of “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but “Talley’s Folly” was selected for a Broadway revival, and the rights to show it elsewhere were temporarily put on hold, Miller said. He added that the Sacramento Theatre Company will perform “Talley’s Folly” when the rights are re-released, likely for the next season.

Tickets for “The Owl and the Pussycat” can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com or at the box office at 1419 H St.

Preview tickets (Wednesday and Thursday) are $30. Opening-night tickets are $46. Regular admission is $38 for evening shows and $34 for matinees, with discounts available for seniors and students. Last-minute tickets are available half an hour before the show at half price if they haven’t sold out.

“The Owl and the Pussycan” runs through Dec. 19. For more information, visit the Sacramento Theatre Company’s website here.

Photos of Lyndsy Kail and Tim Orr in rehearsal.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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