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The Play’s The Thing: Boro theaters seek new formula to bring in crowds

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"The demographics are not what they used to be," she points out. The general theater audience is an older segment of the population, and many have moved away or shuffled off. "Mailing out fliers is no longer enough," says Malini, and you need "guerrilla tactics" to bring in the public. What she means is that you have to try everything you can to publicize your show and sell your tickets.A case in point was Beari's recent production of "Moose Murders," a play that made it to Broadway in 1983 and opened and closed the same night. Frank Rich, then the drama critic for The New York Times, famously wrote: "From now on, there will always be two groups of theatergoers in this world: those who have seen 'Moose Murders,' and those who have not."So Beari tried something out of the ordinary to bring in the paying customers: reviving a celebrated disaster. But this time, encouraged by director Jimmy O'Neill, they turned the whodunit into a farce, and from all reports, it was an entertaining performance and drew some decent audiences. Next up for Beari will be a new version of their very popular "Magical, Musical Moments," a proven crowd-pleaser.When it comes to doing something different, the Phoenix Players are at the top of the class. Comfortably situated in its cozy theater at the Poppenhusen Institute in College Point, Phoenix opens on March 28 its production of "Tea," which it is calling "one of the most startlingly beautiful plays you'll ever see." It's the story of five Japanese war brides who follow their husbands to Kansas, and how they deal with the customs and culture of their new country. I'm looking forward to it.However, when it comes to bringing in an audience, the local theater companies are particularly fond of Agatha Christie and Neil Simon, two very prolific playwrights. There's not a season that goes by without at least one of their works being produced.Christie, who died in 1976, is best known for penning more than 80 detective novels, but she also wrote a bunch of plays, including "The Mousetrap," which is still running in London after 20,000 performances!Theatre Time Productions in Whitestone will soon present Christie's "And Then There Were None" (also known as "Ten Little Indians"), and the Douglaston Community Theatre is in rehearsal for her "A Murder is Announced." It seems like these mysteries never grow old.Neil Simon, now 80, has written more than 30 plays for the stage, not to mention screenplays. He has had a lot of hit shows and is one of the most-performed playwrights in the world. His plays have won a ton of accolades, including three Tony awards ("The Odd Couple," "Biloxi Blues," "Lost in Yonkers") and a Pulitzer Prize ("Lost in Yonkers").Theatre ˆ la Carte in Douglaston will present "The Good Doctor" in May. There you get not only Neil Simon but Anton Chekhov. It may have been done many times before, but hopefully audiences will want to see some more of it.More on this subject next time.Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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