BERLIN — Here in Mater Ecclesiae’s Bishop DiMarzio Hall, “Uncle George” walks around his “living room,” a staged setpiece of a rustic lake house living room, complete with worn furniture, hunting and fishing equipment, and a mounted bass.
Played by Gil Scutti, he is conversing with “Mitch” — Carlos Espiritu who is slumped in an easy chair — or, as George absent-mindenly keeps calling him, “Matt.”
Off-stage, director Linda Hasson sits quietly, watching the comic action unfold during rehearsal Feb. 1 for “The Money in Uncle George’s Suitcase.”
The farcical play, premiering the weekend of Valentine’s Day, is this year’s showcase for Mater Ecclesiae’s Dinner Theatre, now in its sixth year. The evening begins with a catered dinner, followed by the performance. At intermission, dessert is served.
Since its inception, the dinner theatre has been one of the church’s biggest yearly fundraisers, drawing in visitors and actors from the surrounding area.
“As a community, we not only pray and worship God, but we want to get together socially and get to know each other, and pass that on to our children, to show that our faith is both serious and enjoyable,” said Father Robert Pasley, rector of Mater Ecclesiae.
Mater Ecclesiae has no regional boundaries, and ministers to Catholics who feel an attachment to the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments according to the Roman Missal of 1962.
Hasson, the play’s director for the past six years, studied stage direction and speech and drama at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and at Temple University.
In the fall, the eight cast members were chosen and given scripts, and they began rehearsing in November.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s for a good cause,” says “Uncle George” Scutti, a parishioner of Saint Andrew the Apostle in Gibbsboro.
His character brings family together for the reading of his will, but after it is discovered that somewhere on his property is a suitcase filled with almost half a million dollars, hilarity ensues.
In addition to the eight onstage performers, Hasson directs a number of producers, carpenters and dinner servers. In all, the number of contributors to this show reaches almost 30, she said.
Mater Ecclesiae’s “The Money in Uncle George’s Suitcase” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12 and 13 (both shows have dinner 6:30 p.m., curtain 7:30 p.m.), and on Sunday, Feb. 14 (dinner 1 p.m., curtain 2 p.m.), at Bishop DiMarzio Hall, 261 Cross Keys Road, Berlin.
Tickets are $25, and are restricted to ages 12 and over. For more information or to purchase tickets, call producer Kathie DiLoreto at 856-596-7627, or contact the rectory at 856-753-3408, between the hours of 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.