This story was corrected on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. An explanation follows the story.
In Neil Simon’s “45 Seconds from Broadway,” South African playwright Solomon is one of an eclectic cast of characters gathered at a Manhattan coffee shop.
“He meets the people in the coffee shop and develops a relationship with them,” said actor Henri Green, who plays Solomon in the Laurel Mill production of “45 Seconds from Broadway,” opening Friday. “He takes to them and they take to him … they make him part of the family.”
According to Green, the characters’ familial dynamic is similar to the one the Laurel Mill actors have developed rehearsing together over the past several weeks.
“Kind of like in the play, we work well together,” Green said. “You … meet them and you find out about their backgrounds and you get to meet their families.”
Green, who lives in Bowie, has been involved with Laurel Mill for a year and a half. He co-produced “Annie” at the theater last year and has appeared in productions of “The Brides of March” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” His community theater career began in 2003 at the Publick Playhouse in Prince George’s County.
“45 Seconds from Broadway” is one of Simon’s newer plays. It premiered on Broadway in 2001. The title refers to the amount of time it takes to walk to Broadway from the coffee shop where the action takes place. The shop is inspired by the one in the lobby of New York City’s Edison Hotel.
In addition to Solomon, protagonist Mickey Fox (Larry Simmons), a Jewish comedian, meets a diverse cast of characters including the shop’s owner and his wife, a Broadway actor and a high-society dame.
Though Laurel Mill has produced Simon’s work in the past, “45 Seconds from Broadway” was new for the actors as well as producer Maureen Rogers. It wasn’t until Laurel Mill actor Doug Silverman mentioned the play that Rogers even knew it existed.
“I like to talk to different actors and different people and get ideas about what they’ve seen and what they like,” Rogers said. “We had done some of [Simon’s] other plays and I had not heard of this one and it intrigued me. … There are 12 different characters and they all are so different and you can relate to them.”
“Most of the time with Neil Simon, his characters feel real to you,” Simmons added. “You can understand what the characters are going through … His shows are always funny and there’s always a little human emotion in there that makes you nod your head and say, I know what you’re saying there.”
Another draw for Rogers was “45 Seconds from Broadway’s” intended audience.
“The audience that I think would really love this is those 50 and over,” she said. “Those who go to New York, who go to see plays.”
The play also offered an opportunity to another demographic of Laurel Mill actors.
“We have young people and we have shows for them; teen theater, we have musicals,” Rogers said. “There’s a set of mature people who maybe don’t sing or dance; we want something for them, too.”
As opening night draws closer, rehearsals intensify and tech week means long nights spent at the theater. But for the “45 Seconds from Broadway” actors, who have grown to see each other not only as co-workers, but family, the hours are not a chore.
“You develop a bond and you really need that,” Green said. “Everybody has become a family.”
Due to incorrect information provided by the theater company, actor Rebecca Korn was misidentified in a photo caption in the original story.