The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 10, 2006


Carlisle residents involved in the Concord Players' The Spitfire Grill

Val Eaton (left) playing Hannah glowers at Liz Bishop, playing Effy the Town Gossip, in rehearsal for the Concord Players production of the musical The Spitfire Grill. (Photo by Rik Pierce)

Before making its way onto the Concord Players' stage at 51 Walden Street in Concord (as it does this weekend), The Spitfire Grill had its own history of drama and tragedy. Although the stage version opening this Friday is a musical adaptation, The Spitfire Grill began as a film, winning critical recognition and praise at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. After its adaptation to stage, The Spitfire Grill opened on Broadway in September, 2001. Just three performances into its promising run, the tragedy of 9/11 struck, closing down much of New York theater in its wake. The musical lasted only four weeks on Broadway. But since then, The Spitfire Grill has been performed across the country in regional and community theaters, popular because of its uncannily fitting themes of healing and renewal.

"It's a fun show, a show of ballads, and it talks from the heart about who we are as people and our relationships with other people," says Liz Bishop who, in the role of town busybody Effy Krayneck, is one of three Carlisle residents involved in the show. "It is a story of redemption, of finding good in all things."

The Spitfire Grill is set in the fictional town of Gilead, Wisconsin, and gets its title from the town's only café. The story focuses on the relationships between the townspeople and a female ex-con named Percy (played by Shonna McEachern), who comes to town in the hopes of starting a new life. Members of the community respond by both helping and trying to undermine Percy's fresh start. Naturally, there is plenty of gossip, led by Bishop's character, Effy.

"She's got her nose in everybody's business," says Bishop. "I like to think of her as the comic relief. She breaks the tension and shows growth."

Carlisle resident Rik Pierce is no stranger to performing. Having played roles in numerous local stage productions over the years (not to mention his TV commercial career, most notably as the guy who had to fight off women after splashing on Hai Karate aftershave), he is content this time to remain behind the scenes for The Spitfire Grill, as official photographer and Concord Players webmaster.

"It would take a lot, a really special part to make me want to get on stage again," he says. "I was in Our Town [in 2000], and I felt frustrated on the stage because I was not taking pictures." Besides, Pierce adds, he is not tempted to perform in The Spitfire Grill because "It's a musical and I'm not a singer. My wife is constantly reminding me of that."

Carlisle resident Marilyn Cugini is co-producing The Spitfire Grill with two other women, Marlene Mandel and Sally Bull, and sums up her job as "organize, organize, organizegathering up the people resources to make a production like this happen." Ask her why Carlisle residents should go to see the musical, and she does not hesitate to respond: "It's about our town. It's a small town in the woods," she says. "It's about welcoming new people to town, as we're about to do with affordable housing; about embracing change and making a better life, even if we're suspicious about change. It's about looking forward and not looking back, mixing the old and the new."

The music in The Spitfire Grill, Cugini says, is "gorgeous, touching and upliftingthese are not big production numbers and show-stoppers, but deep, introspective ballads, asking "who am I," and "where am I going."

Anyone listening to WERS Radio out of Emerson College last Saturday afternoon got a taste of this music when members of the cast were invited to perform numbers from The Spitfire Grill live. Because the radio station has high standards for the groups it invites to perform, this "speaks to the quality of this show, and shows that the Concord Players is a known entity," says Bishop. "It's an honor being a part of such a high caliber theater."

Performances of The Spitfire Grill by the Concord Players will run Friday and Saturday nights, February 10 through 25, at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, February 19, at 2 p.m. For ticket information, call 1-978-369-2990 or visit

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito