J. A. Di Bello’s Review of The Savannah Sipping Society

 September 13, 2019

Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop

The Rivoli

South Fallsburg

     If there’s one sure-fire thing to say about Director Harold Tighe, it’s that he sure knowns how to throw a rip-roarin’, knee-slappin’ party. And if the digs of Sullivan County don’t fit your fancy, there’s a host of intriguing locations south of that ol’ Mason-Dixon Line. That’s right. South of the Mason-Dixon is the land nostalgically called “Dixie.” And in the heart of Dixie is one of Georgia’s juiciest peaches: Historic Savannah, currently brought face-to-face on the Rivoli stage by the notorious women of The Savannah Sipping Society.

The playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten have taken on the business of supplying Mr. Tighe and the talented members of the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop with a blended assortment of 4 historic “Southern Belles.” They may not be fully historic, but from where they sip, they can see it!    

The four thrown together by circumstance, happenstance or, maybe even, divine intervention (Dionysys),form an ad hoc society dedicated to the proposition: “… knowing life is better when you have someone to talk to, to laugh with, and share a glass with every now and then!”  

Each of these freewheeling, hyperbolic characters has lost the man of her life, either through death, divorce or unashamed tomcatin’. As a packin’ charmer, straight from the Big D, Heather Strauss portrays MarlaFaye. Her husband left town with a twenty-three-year old dental hygienist, affectionately referred to as “swish and spit.” A charter member of this hilarious group of guzzlers is a kind Dot, effectively functioning in the Society by Lynne Porter. She viciously berates her deceased husband for waiting too long before retirement. Complementing that role with give-an’-take dialogue is the character Jinx, efficiently brought to the forefront of the actions by Felice Schwed.  

Ellen Pavioff is exceptionally convincing in her role of Randa, realizing her hard work and sacrifice has resulted in a shallow existence. She’s neglected the important things! There also the downright hilarity of the situational consequences of the episode with Gran’ma Cordelia, played by a fully charged Constance Slater. Sorry, no spoilers from this writer.

Initially, it appeared that the four ladies of Savannah peaches were confirmed, unadulterated alcoholics. However, after close examination: not credible. None attend meetings!  

Essentially, Mr. Tighe has assembled a fine cast and crew, presenting on this opening night an entertaining and worthy production. Costume design by Heather Strauss is outstanding and playing another role as set designer and set builder is the legitimate jack of all theatrical trades Harold Tighe. By extending the stage down right and left into the house, he perfectly brings the audience to the point of experiencing interaction with the characters on stage.  

That concept and utilization brought out an additional element that needs attention, i.e., audio expertise. While on the extended stage or apron (all the women by the way have soliloquys), it was easy to hear and understand the dialogue.  Each was able to enunciate and project adequately. When the actors were on the main stage proper, use of the current sound system muffled and distorted their voices, causing some audience members to whisper, “…what’d she say?” Interestingly, the sound issue did not seem to be a problem with Heather Strauss.  

The house was partially roped off. Restricting audience seating to a greater extent would increase the interaction and assist all in receiving the full benefit of this hilarious production.  

The Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop’s production of The Savannanh Sipping Society will continue its run at the Rivoli Theatre through September 22. Information and tickets are available at 845-435-5336 or https://www.scdw.net/ 


Best Production - Rabbit Hole

Technical Director's Award- Jim Schmidt, Rabbit Hole

Adjudicators' Discretionary Awards Acting - John Neails, Rabbit Hole AND Carol MacAdam, Rabbit Hole

Properties/Set Dressing -Emily Klucinec, Rabbit Hole

Festival Favorites Awards - John Neails - Rabbit Hole, Carol MacAdam - Rabbit Hole, Lori Schneider - Every Brilliant Thing

2018 TANYS awards

2018 One Act Play Festival

Adjudicator:  Paul Nelson

Excellence in Sound Design to Jim Schmidt

Excellence in Direction to Kim Schneeberger  for Look Me in the Eye

Excellence in Ensemble Acting to the Cast of Look Me in the Eye

Meritorious Achievement in Direction to Heather Strauss for Snow Stars

Meritorious Achievement  in Ensemble Acting to the Cast of Snow Stars

Meritorious Achievement in Playwriting to Peter Nastasi for Locked Away

 Rabbit Hole

Adjudicator: Joan Luther

This show has been chosen to be performed at the 2018 TANYS Festival

Excellence in Ensemble Acting to the cast of Rabbit Hole.

Excellence in Direction to Lori Schneider for Rabbit Hole

Excellence in Technical Design And Execution to Jim Schmidt

THe Game’s Afoot

Meritorious Achievement in Acting to Constance Slater for her portrayal of Martha Gillette 

Meritorious Achievement in Acting to Kim Schneeberger for her portrayal of Daria Chase 

Meritorious Achievement in Acting to Ellen Pavloff for her portrayal of Inspector Goring 

Excellence in Scenic Design to Jim Schmidt and Harold Tighe 

Excellence in Costume Design to Ed Berens

Keith Dougherty’s review of The Game’s Afoot

September 11, 2018

Being my first visit to the Rivoli Theater, I was immediately taken to another time, with its vintage finishes and authentic feel. Built in 1923, the theater was renovated in the late 1930’s and remains almost intact from that period. I was greeted by very friendly folk, settled in to my comfortable seat with some delicious, freshly popped popcorn, ready to enjoy an evening of murder, mayhem, and mirth.

Co-directed by the talented team of Kim Schneeberger and Harold Tighe, The Game’s Afoot was written by the King of period-piece farces, Ken Ludwig, and was the winner of the 2012 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Play. Billed as a comedy thriller, this drawing room mystery is a fun whodunit set in December 1936. I’d like to stress the word “fun” because that is definitely what this cast was having on opening night in South Fallsburg.

Before their holiday break, an unknown assailant shoots thespian, William Gillette (Alan Charney) during the curtain call of a performance of his Broadway show. Fortunately, it’s not a serious injury so he goes ahead with his plans to celebrate the holiday with his fellow castmates as he recovers. The festivities are to take place at Gillette’s castle on the Connecticut River, built with the fortune he made from the Sherlock Holmes play he wrote and starred in for decades. Much like his idol, Sherlock Holmes, Gillette has assembled his castle with many state-of-the-art features, such as a hidden room that opens with the pull of a sconce, a remote control, and an intercom.

Sharing the castle with Gillette is his very sweet, yet somewhat eccentric mother, Martha (Constance Slater), who only wants the best for her boy and will do just about anything to protect him. Hence, the mystery unfolds, and the mayhem commences, as the holiday guests begin to arrive, and Gillette enlists their help to determine who tried to kill him. Enter longtime friend, Felix Geisel (Rick Schafstein), his wife, Madge (Heather Strauss), and young newlyweds, Simon Bright (Derk VanWolde), and Aggie Wheeler (Taylor Lamorand).

Unknown to everyone, and not at all a pleasant surprise, Gillette has also invited a conniving theater critic, Daria Chase (Kim Schneeberger), who, at one point, has written horrible things about almost all the attendees. True to any farce, there are misfortunes and mishaps, twists and turns, and the plot turns into a double whodunit when one of the guests is murdered after a suspicious séance.

Although I would have liked to have seen a few more levels to Gillette’s character, Alan Charney was quite entertaining as he bustled around the stage. His chemistry with Rick Shafstein’s Felix was fun to watch, and their scenes together were their best moments on stage.

Heather Strauss was very believable as Madge, with a comfortable and skilled stage presence. As Simon, Derk VanWolde played it a bit too timid but had some nice moments with Aggie. With more stage experience I feel VanWolde will become a credible actor. Taylor Lamorand gave us a versatile portrayal of Aggie but has a habit of looking out into the audience, which distracted from her fine performance. Her transformation at the end of Act II was seamless and demonstrated some well thought out levels to her character.

Kim Schneeberger, who doubled as co-director, put the capital D in Diva, with her wonderful portrayal of Daria Chase. Her strength and fluidity brought the play to the next level and a character you love to hate, to life. As Gillette’s elderly mother, Constance Slater was a joy to watch, and a natural on stage. Her Martha was everything she needed to be and brought a sense of comfort and warmth to all the antics going on around her. Nearly stealing the show was the wonderful Ellen Pavloff as Inspector Goring. We don’t see her until the start of Act II but she entered with a strength and polish that was integral to her character. Her comic timing was near perfect and it was obvious we were watching a seasoned performer.

Ed Berens costumed the actors perfectly and Jim Schmidt was right on the money with Lighting and Sound Design. Harold Tighe’s Set Design was impressive, with the moving secret bookcase a highlight. Kudos to the Set Build Crew and Set Design Crew, Jim Schmidt, Jim Fedroff, Kim Schneeberger, Harold Tighe, Ellen Pavloff, and Rick Schafstein. As you can tell by the repeated names and multiple roles in this wonderful theater, it’s a labor of love and true representation of theater family at the Rivoli, and hats off to all.


Meritorious Achievement in Acting to the Josh Rosengrant, Kristopher Rosengrant, Harold Tighe, Heather Strauss, Amber Schmidt, Mekayla Perneszi as the Players

Meritorious Achievement in Sound Design to Jim Schmidt

Excellence in Costume Design to Ed Berens

One patron's comments about "Rabbit Hole":

I usually use words with skillful abandon but cannot craft the words to describe that performance.
    Suffice it to say that I cried repeatedly and am deeply, deeply grateful to you for recommending the experience.
  Thank you.
  You all shaped a show that sang music without notes. All of the above is as inadequate as describing a humming bird by saying, "It flies."
        Thomas Brown

Recent comments received about the Haunted Theatre Tours: " Kudos to all who planned and participated in this years Haunted Theater tour. We were SO impressed with the creativity, acting, staging, costuming, EVERYTHING! It was truly scary and certain scenes (Grandpa's dining room, the boat ride down the, river Styx) still send shivers and will be remembered for a long long, time. This was our first Haunted Theater visit and if my heart can take it I'll be back next year. Thank you so, so much for a frightful, delightful experience." Ann P. & Todd B. 

TANYS Awards - 2017

One Act Festival

How Blue Is My Crocodile: Meritorious Achievement in Ensemble Acting to Jayden Ramsey and Nicole Lavere - This show has been chosen to be performed at the 2017 TANYS Festival!!

Aunt Maggity's Dark and Stormy Night: Meritorious Achievement in Costuming to Dawn Perneszi

Bette and Me: Meritorious Achievement in choreography and dance to Kevin Cerda

Noises Off

Excellence in Set Design to Jim Schmidt and Harold Tighe
Meritorious Achievement in Ensemble Acting to The Cast of Noises Off and Nothing On.

Sally Gladden, Melissa McTague, David Mossey, Andrew Nagoda, Jennifer Nolan, Ellen Pavloff, Mekayla Perneszi, Josh Rosengrant and Amber Schmidt
Meritorious Achievement in Direction to Jim Schmidt

Sweeney Todd

Meritorious Achievement in Ensemble Performance to the Cast
Meritorious Achievement in Make Up and Hair Design to Melissa McTague
Excellence in Technical Design and Execution of the Barber Chair to Tim Buckley
Excellence in Performance to Heather Strauss for her performance of Mrs. Lovett
Excellence in Performance to Tim Buckley for his performance of Pirelli
Excellence in Performance to Kristopher Rosengrant for his performance of Anthony


Meritorious Achievement in Acting to Kristopher Rosengrant as Melvin
Meritorious Achievement in Set Design and Construction to Harold Tighe and Jim Schmidt
Meritorious Achievement in Costume Design and Construction to Dawn Perneszi and Jenny Silverman

2017 TANYS Festival - Best Technical Design for the haunted theatre. This is a statewide honor in competition with the many tanys productions put on through Out new york state in 2017.



TANYS Awards - 2016


Meritorious Achievement for Ensemble Work to the Director and Cast

Moonlight and Magnolias

Meritorious Achievement in Hair and Make-up Design to Teri Paris
Meritorious Achievement in Set Design to
Fran Schiff
Meritorious Achievement in Overall Technical Production and Props to the
Production Crew

Beauty And The Beast
Meritorious Achievement in Vocal Performance to Amanda Bercze
Meritorious Achievement in Vocal Performance to Carlos Holden
Meritorious Achievement in Vocal Performance to Timothy Buckley
Meritorious Achievement in Vocal Performance to Lori Schneider
Excellence in Costuming to Ed Berens and his Staff
Excellence in Overall Production Direction and Design to Heather Strauss, Stephanie Watson,

Lauren Bernard, Jim Schmidt, Kimberly Schneeberger, Jenny Silverman, Dawn Perneszi,
Teri Paris, Harold Tighe, Josh Rosengrant

The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Meritorious Achievement in Ensemble Work to The Cast