True love on-, off-stage adds magic to ‘Prairie’

Sometimes in a chaotic world where a private moment is a thing of the past, a little nostalgia is a welcome reprieve. That’s what the North Coast Repertory Theatre is counting on when they present “The Voice of the Prairie.” A combination of road trip and love story unfolds via train trips, new inventions, and perhaps a bit of magic. Prairie’s director, Lynne Griffin, believes the play will also conjure up playgoers’ imaginations.

“We want to see things fully fleshed out but I think the audience wants to see them in their own imagination as well,” Griffin said. “The lovely thing about this play is we have three actors who play many different characters and really get to strut their stuff. They change hats and coats and become someone else before your eyes. I think that adds a sense of magic to this story.”

Griffin has appeared in “Romeo & Juliet,” “Uncle Vanya,” “The Dresser,” “Over The Tavern,” and many more productions. On television she’s seen on ABC’s “Happy Town,” and has appeared in many other TV series. Her film credits include “Strange Brew” and “Black Christmas,” and she will next be seen in the feature film “Dream House,” starring Daniel Craig and Naomi Watts.

“The Voice of the Prairie” is especially dear to Griffin; it’s practically her life story. Twenty-two years ago she played three roles in “Voice of the Prairie” at The Old Globe Theatre. Young actor Sean Sullivan played three men. He and Griffin soon became an off-stage couple of 22 years — married for 14 of them.

“Our entire lives and relationship are a direct result of the characters in this play who are on this incredible and wonderful journey of love and discovery,” Griffin said.

The couple has appeared in several productions together, and Griffin most recently directed Sullivan in his solo play, “Baby Redboots’ Revenge,” which has played Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Poland and the Czech Republic. Sullivan, the assistant director of “The Voice of the Prairie,” is also a music composer and has written a original score for play.

Griffin thought this would be very appropriate since the play is a lot about music.

“I wanted somewhat of a basic adventurous, rhythmic theme that went with boxcar riding and trains,” she said. “But then for the second act, we needed to slow it down because it’s 28 years later. Sean composed a wonderful score that begins the journey and at the end reflects time passing.”

The cast may be small in number but between them have the experience of those involved in a Broadway show. David Meyers (Poppy, David Quinn, etc.) is an actor of stage, film and TV. He’s appeared in PCPA Theaterfest’s new adaptation of Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid,” in the films “Firefox,” “Men of Honor,” and others, and on TV in “Final Justice,” “Terror in the Towers,” and more.

Jason Maddy (Davey, Leon, James) has performed at the NCR Theatre, Welk Resort Theatre, San Diego Musical Theatre, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival and has taught for theater companies and colleges across the country. Amanda Sitton (Frankie, Frances) has appeared in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Man From Nebraska,” “Doubt,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Heidi Chronicles,” “Golden Boy,” (winning SD Theatre Critics Circle’s Craig Noel Award for Outstanding Lead Performance), and more.

“This is a wonderful cast that inspires me everyday,” Griffin said. “I try to make it a collaborative process because they are worth listing to because of their experience. No one knows their characters better than them, so I listen and let them fly.”

There’s much to look forward to in this nostalgic homespun story that will resonate with theater audiences. America’s favorite radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” has been entertaining audiences since 1947. “The Vinyl Cafe” is an hourlong radio variety show hosted by Stuart McLean that’s been airing in Canada quite successfully since 1994. At the heart of these shows is the pure art of storytelling.

“I think there’s a resurgence of how much we enjoyed the oral sense as opposed to being bashed on the head by these mega movies with so many special effects,” Griffin said. “We like to let our imagination take over while just listening. Everything is so high-tech now that when you go back to a simpler time, I think people say, “Yes, it was wonderful back then.”

What could be better than boarding a train, falling in love and having the adventure of a lifetime? Maybe experiencing all of that from a seat in the theater.

‘A Prairie Home Companion’

  • Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987

Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

  • Previews: May 26-28
  • Performances: 7 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 p.m. select Saturdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, May 29-June 20
  • Tickets: $30-$47; (858) 481-1055,