Eddie Coyle wasn’t known as a patron of the arts, except the criminal arts, but he’s partially responsible for a production of “Bouncers” coming to Central Square this week.
“Eddie left the company with a few dollars,” says Bill Doncaster.
Doncaster wrote a stage adaptation of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” novelist George V. Higgins’s Boston crime classic about a low-level mobster on the way down. Working with director Maria Silvaggi as Stickball Productions, Doncaster brought it to the stage at Oberon just over a year ago. Now Stickball is using the modest profits from that run to put on another gritty tale.
Directed by Doncaster, the play is John Godber’s “Bouncers,” an antic account of a Friday night in a working-class British nightclub, awash in beer, lust, and insecurity. Four actors play four bouncers, four rough-edged lads, and four gals on the make.
“It’s not a pretty look at night life, but it is funny,” Doncaster says, “and I think anyone that’s ever rolled home at 2:30 a.m. when they intended to be home at 8 will see something familiar.”
Performances — all of which are 21-plus — begin Friday downstairs at the Cantab Lounge in Central Square, and continue Fridays and Saturdays through April. Set and props? Two empty beer kegs.
“The Cantab struck a few people as kind of an odd choice,” Doncaster says. “But working in a black box, we would be trying to make it look like a barroom that’s seen some years, so why not just do it in a barroom that’s seen some years?”
And there are other advantages to choosing such a well-known venue, he says: “I haven’t had to give directions to anybody.”
Godber’s 1977 play has been widely performed, especially in England, and Doncaster says he’s “bewildered” that he’s never seen it done in the Boston area. He’s been enamored of “Bouncers” since catching it in Chicago back in 1991.
“It’s British and obviously British,” he says, “but at the same time, the packs of guys going out looking for girls, and packs of girls going out together and going to the nightclub or the disco or the pub or whatever — there’s a lot of things that are pretty universal.”
Doncaster, who lives in Medford, says “Bouncers” and “Eddie Coyle” have at least one thing in common besides a cash bar at performances.
“Whatever [Stickball’s] mission statement says formally, we’re trying to do theater for people who think they don’t like theater,” he says. “I just want to make a good story on Friday night.”
For all its snarled threats and comic curses, Godber’s script gets under the skin of its characters as they drink and battle their way past — or toward — a gnawing emptiness. At the same time, it’s tough.
“I’ve grown up around that attitude, that any minute there could be a, ‘Hey, listen, [expletive] off, pal,’ ” says Joe Siriani of Hingham, who plays Lucky Eric, the oldest and burliest of the bouncers. “I’m a big guy, 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, put together pretty solid, so it looks like I could be mean and nasty when I need to be.”
He’ll turn 55 on April 9, which makes him a couple of decades older than costars James Bocock, Patrick Curran, and Seyi Ayorinde. A water company worker by day, Siriani has done commercials and stage work, including starring as Daddy Warbucks in a recent production of “Annie” at the Company Theatre in Norwell. But he notes that he’s best known as the guy who reacts angrily to a Mark Wahlberg fart in the recent filmed-in-Boston movie “Ted.”
“I’m, like, how do I put this on my résumé?” he says with a laugh.
In “Bouncers,” the actors are required at times to walk and dance like young women. Doncaster, who brought on a choreographer to teach them how, says they’ve taken to the challenge.
“When I put out the audition call, I asked for four guys who looked like they could take a punch and come back pissed and swinging,” he says. “Going from tough-guy bouncers to drunken idiots to playing girls — they’re having a ball.”
Looking ahead at Merrimack
Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell will kick off its 2013-14 season with Bruce Graham’s romantic comedy “Stella and Lou” Sept. 19-Oct. 13. The rest of the season will include “The Immigrant” by Mark Harelik (Oct. 24-Nov. 17); “Mrs. Mannerly” by Jeffrey Hatcher (Nov. 29-Dec. 22); Broadway hit “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza (Jan. 9-Feb. 2, 2014); “The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith” by Angelo Parra (Feb. 13-March 9, 2014); “Equally Divided” by Ronald Harwood (March 20-April 13, 2014); and the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s “The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)” by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor (April 24-May 18, 2014). Subscription packages are available now. Single-ticket sales will begin in August.
Lyric’s next season
No dates or casting yet, but the Lyric Stage Company has announced five of the seven plays that will make up its 2013-14 season. The troupe will open with Richard Bean’s Carlo Goldoni adaptation, “One Man, Two Guvnors,” and Quiara Alegría Hudes’s 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner “Water by the Spoonful.” Also on the schedule are Stephen Schwartz’s musical “Working,” based on the oral history by Studs Terkel, and Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” The Lyric’s producing artistic director, Spiro Veloudos, will direct the season closer, the Stephen Sondheim musical “Into the Woods.” Two more titles will be announced later. Subscription packages are on sale now. Single tickets go on sale Aug. 14.
Veloudos and associate artistic director A. Nora Long will host an open house for actors on Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. to prep for auditions for the upcoming season. In what one might think of as a nod to its current show, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” the theater is using the event to work on cast diversity. Noting that all roles are open for nontraditional casting, the Lyric says that “actors of color are strongly encouraged to attend.” Both Equity and non-Equity actors are invited.