By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — In “The Six Basic Rules,” the marital comedy opening tonight at the Key City Playhouse, leading man Charlie Bethel strives for three things.
“A gasp, a sigh and a tear,” says the New York-based actor.
Bethel gasps in “Six” when his wife, portrayed by veteran Port Townsend actress Michelle Hensel, reveals a particular peccadillo. The sigh and the tear come along too, as the pair navigate their way from honeymoon to 50th wedding anniversary party.
“The Six Basic Rules,” written and directed by Mara Lathrop, is the story of James and Louise Pettigrew, who elope after a week-long courtship.
Somehow, the Pettigrews make it through five decades of marriage — which unfold on the stage, one scene per 10 years, all in about 90 minutes.
Curtain times at the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St., are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays starting tonight; 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 2:30 p.m. each Sunday through Oct. 20. Tickets are $18 and $20 via www.KeyCityPublicTheatre.org and 360-385-KCPT (5278).
The exceptions are Sunday, Oct. 6, and next Thursday, Oct. 10, the show’s pay-what-you-wish days. And those who pedal a bike to the Sunday, Oct. 13, performance will enjoy valet parking and $5 off a ticket, a snack or a beverage from the bar.
Bethel is known to Port Townsend audiences for stepping in to play the title role in Key City’s “Macbeth” two summers ago after actor Kerry Skalsky injured his Achilles tendon.
Bethel was also the director of that 2011 production and of “Twelfth Night” in 2012; then he did a one-man show, “This Wonderful Life,” last November and December.
Surprisingly, there is one thing he’s never done before: kissed a woman on stage.
In “The Six Basic Rules,” he does that and then some.
There’s a between-the-sheets sex scene, Bethel noted, while adding that he considers this perfectly appropriate for the play.
“I would take my 14-year-old daughter to see it,” he said.
“There is some complicated dialogue” under those bedclothes, Bethel quipped.
“Six” has something to say to people who have been in a relationship for 10 minutes or 30 years, he believes.
To boil down the message: Human beings need to find partners. All humans are flawed.
Therefore “all hookups are flawed,” said Bethel.
To navigate the relationship seas, “forgiveness is key.”
Hensel, for her part, said many scenes in “Six” will spark laughter — as well as that close-to-home feeling. It was the ending, when James and Louise arrive at their anniversary celebration, that clinched it for her.
When asked to sum up the “Six” theme, Hensel didn’t mince words.
“If you can get through the rough, hard, horrible times in a relationship, which will be there, there is a payoff for that.”
This play, she added, “is a mirror to people’s relationships.
“You can see yourself in it.”
“The Six Basic Rules,” it turns out, is one half of Key City’s fall repertory. “Zombie Town,” another comedy — described as a “hair-raising mockumentary” — will run Oct. 17 through Nov 2.
Information awaits at KeyCityPublicTheatre.org.