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Preview of the 2014 Players summer season

PETERBOROUGH — A one-woman show that affectionately and hilariously reveals the skeletons in the closets of a typical American family. A classic Neil Simon comedy about a long-married man trying desperately to find his inner Casanova. A comedy of high-society intrigue from the era of Downton Abbey. The tragic story of country music legend Patsy Cline. And a world premiere of a comedy about “America’s greatest living author” — who just happens to live in Hancock, New Hampshire.

These are some of the Peterborough Players highlights for the 2014 summer season, which kicks off next week at the theater on Hadley Road. According to Artistic Director Gus Kaikkonen, the season has no particular theme, but he’s aiming to provide a diverse lineup.

“I just look for the best pieces I can,” Kaikkonen said last week. “I try to find them so no two will be anything alike.”

The first show, “Family Secrets,” is described by the Players as “an affectionate look at a relatively painful subject.” Actress Carolyn Michel will portray five members of the Fisher family who all have secrets that are eventually revealed. Michel last appeared at the Players in 2011, in “The Lady with All the Answers,” based on the life of advice columnist Ann Landers.

“Carolyn is a very funny actress, and here she plays everyone from a granddaughter to a grandfather — men, women, all generations,” said Kaikkonen.

“Family Secrets” opens on June 25, and will run through July 6.

The Players’ second show is Neil Simon’s “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers.” It’s the tale of Barney Cashman, who’s dealing with a mid-life crisis and looking for one last tryst before the world passes him by. Kirby Ward will portray Barney and Ward’s wife, Beverly Ward, will play a different woman in each act of the play.

“It’s a comedy, but Neil Simon took a bit of a turn toward the serious here,” Kaikkonen said. “Barney has a series of unsuccessful liaisons. He’s not a red hot lover at all.”

In late July, the Players will premiere Charles Morey’s latest comedy, titled “The Granite State.”

“It all takes place in Hancock, where the greatest living American writer of fiction lives,” Kaikkonen said. “He wins a $2 million prize and all of his ex-wives descend to take their share of the proceeds. It’s sort of like J.D. Salinger meets John Updike, set right here at home.”

Anderson Matthews, an actor who is new to the Players, will portray author George Gordon, Tom Frey will play Gordon’s son, and Players regulars Joyce Cohen, Karron Graves, Beverly Ward and Lisa Bostnar will be the women in Gordon’s life.

“The Circle,” a comedy of manners about English high society by Somerset Maugham, will open in August.

“It’s about two generations of a stately English family, where each generation seems to be making the same mistakes,” Kaikkonen said. “It was Maugham’s biggest success at the time and was revived twice recently on Broadway.”

Kaikonnen is looking forward to the August production of “The Voysey Inheritance,” which he adapted from a dark comedy written by Harley Granville-Barker. Granville-Barker started as an actor, appearing in many of George Bernard Shaw’s plays, Kaikkonen said. Later he wrote a number of plays, was a director who did modern productions of Shakespeare and became a literary scholar.

Kaikkonen directed the New York premiere of “The Voysey Inheritance” at the Mint Theatre in 1999. The play tells the story of Edward Voysey, an idealistic young lawyer, who is given a partnership in his family’s law firm, only to discover that his beloved father isn’t all he appears to be.

“It’s as if he wrote all about the Bernie Madoff scandal 100 years early,” Kaikkonen said.

In September, Bridget Beirne will take the title role in “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline,” which will tell the tale of one of the legend’s of country music, featuring 20 of Cline’s best known songs.

The season will conclude with “All in Good Fun,” a docudrama written and performed by Talene Monahon.

“She’s a wonderful actress and a beautiful singer,” said Kaikkonen about Monahon, who is the niece of the late Rick Monahon of Peterborough. “I saw her do this show in New York City and really thought it was terrific.”

The play uses the words of more than 25 students, faculty and staff members of Dartmouth College, to examine how a campus can be plagued by hazing scandals, sexual assaults and controversy over Greek fraternity life.

“It’s not casting blame, but it’s a powerful piece talking about how these things can happen,” Kaikkonen said.

The Players season will also include two Second Company productions for families and children — “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in what Kaikkonen described as a “fractured fairy tale version,” and “Little Women,” an adaptation by Kaikkonen of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel.

For information about tickets, visit the Players online at www.peterboroughplayers.org or call 924-7485.

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