Picture a mom, dad, son and daughter living in 1957 Buffalo, N.Y. “Leave It to Beaver” and Jack Benny are on TV, and Vic Damone is on the hi-fi. Bowling is all the rage.
But although playwright Carter W. Lewis’ “While We Were Bowling” unfolds in the picture-postcard-pretty world of full skirts and flat-tops, the Williamston Theatre show would never be mistaken for a lost episode of “Ozzie and Harriet.”
Melvin McGlauphlin (Joseph Albright) has sent his kids to Russian language classes as part of his “worst-case scenario” preparation. His wife, Frances (Suzi Regan), seems like the duchess of domesticity, although she is not always satisfied with her role.
As for 16-yearold Brent (Tyler VanCamp), he’s an overachiever who hides his true self inside a sanctimonious shell. His 17-year-old sister, Lydia (Kelly Studnicki), who narrates the play, likes her Cherry Cokes with four cherries “and half a Hershey bar in it”; however, her relationship with bowling alley employee Stickpin (Edward O’Ryan) is not always as sweet.
Under John Lepard’s direction, “Bowling” combines humor with bittersweet observations about the shadowy side of the “I Like Ike” era. For Albright, who also plays Melvin’s buttoned-down brother, John, the show is a reminder that the good old days weren’t always golden.
Take a working dad, for example. “If they hated their boss or their job, there was nothing they could do,” he said. “There was no such thing as quitting. You were expected to be the provider. Think about the pressure they faced — the entire household relied on them for sustenance.”
Not that it was easy living for stay-athome moms, either, who were expected to devote themselves to housekeeping and catering to the family: “Could you blame any of those women for drinking during the day, or taking pills?” Albright asked.
The actor, who is returning to Williamston for the first time since starring in “It Came From Mars” last year, did more than research the 1950s in preparation for the play — he needed to polish up his bowling skills as well.
Growing up in Owosso, he admitted, “My family was not a bowling family. I’ve gone bowling, but I can’t really put the English on it.”
’While We Were Bowling’
Williamston Theatre 122 S. Putnam Road, Williamston Through April 17 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; added matinees at 3 p.m. March 26, March 31, April 9 and April 16 $24 Friday and Saturday evenings; $20 Saturday matinees and Sundays; $18 Thursdays Preview at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 24; all seats $15 (517) 655-7469 www.williamstontheatre.org