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Theater group debuts in boro with ‘Simon’

A new Queens community theater group, the Baker’s Repertory Players, made its debut in Queens last Friday evening with a tribute to Neil Simon — “Simply Simon.”

The group, formerly located in Valley Stream, has formed a partnership with the PTA of MS 67 in Little Neck to perform in the Louis Pasteur Studio Theatre.

The moving force behind the group is its producer/director, Lon T. Blais, who teaches English and drama at MS 67. He is a versatile actor who has played many disparate characters, Geoffrey in “Sisters Rosenzweig,” John Proctor in “The Crucible,” and the Gentleman Caller in “Glass Menagerie.”

Baker’s Repertory has created the tribute with excerpts from many of Simon’s successful plays, and some that were not. Personal anecdotes are told together with the ideas he embedded in his work.

Outstanding in the cast is Joseph Anfora, who portrays Simon and several characters from “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” to “Biloxi Blues” and “The Odd Couple.” He shows many sides of “Doc” Simon’s character in his interaction with his brother Danny and the rest of his family.

Lon Blais and his wife, Joanna, appear in scenes from “Barefoot in the Park” and “Lost in Yonkers.” Their chemistry makes them an attractive and talented couple. Both are versatile: Lon playing one of the “Sunshine Boys” and Joanna, appearing with another fine actor, Richard Schall, in “Broadway Bound.”

Simon is meticulous in creating his humor. He is known to write and re-write up to the opening night; he and Mike Nichols do their best to involve audiences in the plots.

There are serious sides to Neil Simon,. In “The Gingerbread Lady,” his writing becomes richer and deeper. It was a new kind of play, sad and funny at the same time.

Other ensemble players are Ivan Goldfarb, Patrick Reilly, David Risley, Edie Jud, Lit Zimmermann — all undertaking a variety of Simon’s characters with great verve.

Many MS 67 teachers were in the audience and they marveled how a choir room could be made into a theater with billowing ceiling hangings and scenery consisting of louver doors and black backdrop.

This enjoyable show continues Oct. 26, 27, 28 and Nov. 2, 3, and 4 at the Pasteur Studio Theater, Louis Pasteur Middle School 67, Little Neck (between Northern Boulevard and the Horace Harding Expressway). Call 718 229 6068 for tickets and more information.

Reach Qguide writer Anita Raymon by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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