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"Social Security"

The Mason City Community Theatre cast of "Social Security," from left, Liz Rocha, Sandie Johnson, Cindy Dahl, Alan Steckman, Andy Swyter and Will Symonds.

MASON CITY | A light-hearted season of theater kicks off Thursday with “Social Security” at the Mason City Community Theatre.

“I think our season will be full of laughs,” said Brian Bauer, who co-directs with Liz Rocha.

Rocha, who makes her directorial debut with this show, is also acting.

“I had no intention of doing the show” as an actor, Rocha said. “I had to step up. Things happen.”

The play, according to Rocha, is “about your typical dysfunctional family."

“Barbara and David are living this great, fabulous, uninterrupted life in Manhattan," she said. "Barbara’s sister, Trudy, and her husband show up out of the blue and dump all this baggage and drama on them.”

The “baggage” is the women’s mother, Sophie, who lives with Trudy and her husband, Martin. They leave Sophie with David and Barbara while they go to Buffalo to deal with their promiscuous daughter.

“It’s been a blast,” said Rocha, who plays Barbara.

Newcomer Sandie Johnson plays Trudy.

“I have been in three different community theaters,” Johnson said. “I’ve been trying to get here the last seven years. It’s been a really fun experience.”

Sophie is played by Cindy Dahl, who was in a recent production of “Hernando’s Hideaway” murder-mystery at Pastime Gardens in Mason City.

“I’ve had a Long Island accent for about three months,” Dahl said. “I’m channeling my inner Jewish grandmother.”

Alan Steckman plays Maurice, a suave artist who offers to paint Sophie’s portrait.

“It’s been helpful to have a resident Jewish” person in the cast, Rocha said, referring to Steckman.

“I had to supply Cindy with a book about Yiddish because their terminology is used in there three or four different times,” Steckman added.

“This is my fourth show (at MCCT),” said Will Symonds, who plays David. “Every one I’ve been in, Cindy has been in.”

Dahl said she enjoys it, and encourages others to get involved.

“If anybody has ever given a thought to auditioning,” Dahl said, “it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

Bauer agreed, stressing the “unbelievable connections” gained from working closely with the same people for six to eight weeks.

“I have friends in three communities,” Johnson added.

“At the end of (last season's) ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,’ I said I’m going to miss these family reunions,” Steckman said.

The best thing about this show, they agreed, is the comedy.

“I get the feeling my cheek will be bleeding from biting it” to keep from laughing, said Andy Swyter, who is in his first non-musical role with MCCT as Martin.

“The last few nights, we’ve cracked each other up,” Rocha said. “Every night, the scenes that Cindy is not in, knitting her beret for Alan, she laughs.”

“It’s evolving, getting better and better every time,” Dahl agreed.

“When I initially agreed to direct a show, obviously I’ve really only dealt with children’s theater,” said Rocha, who started acting with Stebens Children's Theatre.

So she asked Tom Ballmer, Stebens director, what she should do.

“When I first read the script, I thought, 'It’s OK.' It’s now turned out beyond my expectations.”

Bauer had a similar experience. Ballmer told him to do a farce.

“Turned out it was a very big hit, which I imagine this will be as well,” Bauer said.

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