'Handle With Care' at Actors' Summit a clever, sweet comedy

by April Helms | Special Products Editor Published:

When Natalie Sander Kern was cast in Actors' Summit's "Handle With Care," which opened March 27, she said she had never studied Hebrew. This would prove a challenge since her character, a young Israeli woman named Ayelet, speaks Hebrew through half the show. It was a challenge, she said, she embraced wholeheartedly.

"I had a bunch of recordings, which helped," said Kern, who lives in Alliance. "Oudi [Singer, the language coach for the production] also met with me once a week and helped me with the nuances I couldn't get from the recording."

Her hard work paid off in this charming and funny play, which can be seen through April 13.

"She was very passionate with the role, and it made it easier for me to teach," said Singer. "It was fun to teach Natalie. She was a great student."

In "Handle With Care," by Jason Odell Williams and directed by Connie Thackaberry, Ayelet is reluctantly accompanying her grandmother Edna (played by Cuyahoga Falls resident Marci Paolucci) in an unconventional trip in America. Edna is searching for something but is reluctant to tell her granddaughter what that is. Unfortunately, Edna dies during the trip, and the task for transporting her body from a small Virginia town to Washington D.C. falls to the hapless and clueless Terrence (played by Arthur Chu). Terrence doesn't even get out of town before he manages to lose the body, and his efforts to explain what happened to the enraged Ayelet are hampered by the fact that Ayelet's English is extremely limited. Terrence calls his longtime friend Josh (played by Sagamore Hills resident Keith E. Stevens), who knows some rudimentary Hebrew. What happens results in a blossoming relationship between Josh and Ayelet.

Thackaberry said that she and the playwright Williams went to graduate school together, and that she saw an early version of the script.

"Last year, they did a reading in Ohio, and we went to see it," Thackaberry said. "That solidified it that we wanted to do it in our season."

Paolucci called "Handle With Care" a "really funny and poignant play."

"I think the fact that it goes back and forth in time, rather than linear, makes it more interesting," she said.

An amusing dose of irony in this production is that Chu, whose character is far from bright, recently become the third highest money winner in the history of the game show Jeopardy, winning just under $300,000 in 11 shows, according to information provided by the theater.

"It was a really crazy media experience, with the 'Jeopardy' stuff," he said. "I was very glad to have this opportunity [to be in "Handle with Care."] It kept me from going crazy. It's a really fun show. It's a great theater, very close-knit. I hope to do more shows here."

Ticket and show information

Performances of "Handle With Care" are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., and are at Greystone Hall, in downtown Akron. The show is appropriate for all ages.

Tickets are $33 for adults, $28 for seniors over 65, and $10 for all full time students under 30. Tickets can be purchased through the box office at 330-374-7568 and online at www.actorssummit.org.

The theater is on the sixth floor of historic Greystone Hall in downtown Akron. The facility features barrier free access, free parking, and full bar service.

Next on stage

Actors' Summit will next produce "Ring of Fire" from May 1 through May 25.

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Phone: 330-541-9438

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