"Send Me No Flowers" Sept. - Oct. 1985
By Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore, Directed by Joey Kruft
From The Daily World, Friday, September 13, 1985
Joey Kruft, his fellow Driftwood Players say, is 15 going on 35.
He can use those extra 20 years, for as director of the Players' 1985 - 1986 season-opening production, "Send Me No Flowers," he issues orders every night to actors three times his age.
The play will open at 8:15 tonight at the Driftwood Playhouse on Third Street in Aberdeen.
"The cast has been wonderful about taking direction," he said at a recent rehearsal. "There've been no problems with them because of my age. I know there are people who think I'm too young to be directing, but I have supporters, too, and I couldn't do it if they weren't behind me."
With his clipboard and playbook in hand, watching and listening to the actors, discussing the effect of some particular bit of business, interjecting directions now and then, the tall Weatherwax High School freshman looks and acts more like 35 than 15.
He already has as much stage experience as many older directors. His first role on stage, aside from Cosmopolis School plays, was as the young Scrooge in an early Driftwood production of "A Christmas Carol." He was 9 years old.
Next he scored a hit with fellow actors and audiences alike as the young Patrick in "Auntie Mame," the production that opened "new" Driftwood Playhouse in Aberdeen four years ago.
He was Bill Davis' assistant director for "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" in 1983 and assistant stage manager for "The Crucifer of Blood" last spring.
He has worked in John Carlberg's Nomah Productions at the D&R Theater, performing in "Picnic" last year and working backstage on "The Gingerbread Lady" and "Mass Appeal." Last year he also took part in Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona" at Grays Harbor College.
Bill Davis, a Hoquiam teacher and veteran Driftwood actor, director and designer, is production manager for "Send Me No Flowers," and Hilary Richrod, who has directed for both Driftwood and Nomah Productions, is assistant director.
"That was one of the provisions when the driftwood board of directors let me do the play -- that I have adult assistants," Joey explained. "I've worked with both of them before, and they're great."
Davis has great confidence in his young cohort's abilities. A few days ago, Joey's father, Joe Kruft, said "Bill should worry more. If he'd be more worried, Joey might be more at ease."
But Davis says the actors were "ready to go" without their playbooks earlier in the play's rehearsal schedule than expected, and that polishing the performances is, if anything, ahead of schedule.
"What's to worry about?" he asked.
The deciding factor in getting to do his play for Driftwood was Joey's own initiative. He first saw "Send Me No Flowers" as a movie, starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall, and "Absolutely loved it." He saw it several times, read the playbook, and decided last Christmas that he wanted to direct it.
He already had produced a one-act play for the Driftwood membership to qualify as a director, but was told he was too young to do a full production. Undaunted, he secured an auditorium (the Cosmopolis School), got a loan to meet production costs, and started assembling his own cast.
"I felt I had to do the play," he said. "Then I went to a Driftwood board meeting and decided to submit it as a candidate for this season. I waited a month -- and I got it."
Theater is Joey's main interest in life, and he is bound to suffer tonight from a severe case of butterflies in the stomach as his actors walk onto the stage. But they and Joey's assistants are confident of their product.
"We've forgotten all about his age. To us he's a director who knows what he wants, that's it," said leading lady Bobbee Downs.
From The Daily World, Sunday, September 15, 1985
It may be that hypochondriacs, like birds in gilded cages, are. more to be pitied than censured.
But when George Kimball, the 1960s suburban husband-hero of "Send Me No Flowers," decided he was dying. he came in for considerably more censure than pity. It was mostly because he didn't die on schedule.
This is the basic situation of the comedy which opened the Driftwood Players' 1985 - 1986 theater season this weekend. With Bill Michalak cast as the dutiful but paranoid husband and Bobbee Downs as the loving but out-of-patience wife, the play manages to poke good-natured fun at suburban priorities, doctors, lawyers, funeral directors, oil millionaires, and the fantasies that often enliven their lives.
Michalak and Downs play together well, although their opening-night performances were a little lacking in intensity, Michalak, the hypochondriac who overhears a phone conversation that leads him to believe mistakenly that he is dying, has a heavy role, for he is on stage most of the time. Most of the best touches of illogical reaction to death are his.
Four "take-off" characters are masterfully portrayed by Bill Bilsland, the family-friend doctor; Jim Ball, the "isn't this jolly" cemetery-lot salesman; Mike Dugan, the attorney whose response to his friend's supposed approaching death is to get drunk and write a glowing eulogy, and John Eko, the unbelievable honest, upright and true former suitor dripping in oil money.
Tom Haller plays three good bit parts, a fresh delivery boy and, in two fantasy sequences, a flashy gigolo-husband and a kind-hearted purchaser of pencils from the "destitute" widow.
Much of the humor of the play lies in the fantasy scenes depicting the wild imaginings of the leading characters, cued in by blackouts and spotlighting characters. Sally Anne Adams is a sexy, scantily-dressed "other woman" in one such scene, Jennifer Borth a business-oriented call girl in another. John Carlberg also played a bit fantasy role.
Director Joey Kruft and his assistants, Bill Davis and Hilary Richrod, have kept the action moving along and have seen to it that the light touch toward death is maintained throughout. After incredible complications, everything, of course, ends happily.
Davis designed the suburban living-room setting; the light design was by Gary Morean and Joe Kruft (father of the director), who also handles the lights and mixes the sound. Scott Sipe is sound man; Jennifer Borth is stage manager.
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