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Neil Simon play to open season

The Paul Bunyan Playhouse opens its 60th summer season today with "Biloxi Blues," which runs through June 19. Actors Clarence Wethren and Katherine Tieben rehearse a scene in the Neil Simon comedy. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The Paul Bunyan Playhouse will start the 60th season this summer with the opening production of the Tony Award winning "Biloxi Blues" at 8 p.m. today, June 9, in the historic Chief Theatre, downtown Bemidji.

Playwright Neil Simon reflects for his audiences all that is endearing and even dismaying about life, very evident in this, the second in the trilogy of his semi-autobiographical plays.

Set in 1943 at a military base in Biloxi, Miss., the nine characters are brought to life onstage at the Chief.

Eugene Morris Jerome, played by Clarence Wethern, narrates the arrival of six soldiers, outlining their subsequent training in much more than warfare and the inevitable departure to battle, and sharing with his audience the outcome for each of the six. His insight allows the audience a grasp of each character. In combination with performances from himself, Alexander Broeffle, Stephen Frethem, Aric Furfaro, Ari Hoptman, Eric Webster, Ramey Nordby, A. Emily Heaney and Katherine Tieben, as directed by Zach Curtis, "Biloxi Blues" sets the tone for the 60th season.

Followed by "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," Bram Stoker's "Dracula," "The Boys Next Door," the 60th season will close with the musical finale of "Gypsy."

The Paul Bunyan Playhouse spent 40y ears at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge on the shores of Lake Bemidji, where audiences grew too large for the accommodations. The Playhouse then purchased and moved to the historic 315-seat Chief Theatre in 1991, where it has continued the tradition of entertainment, featuring professional summer theater and hosting many other events in the winter season.

"Biloxi Blues" has two acts with one intermission. The play will run through Saturday, June 19. Evening performances start at 8 p.m. and tickets are $22. The Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. June 13 and matinee tickets are $11. Student tickets are $10 for anyone younger than 21 and must be purchased in person at the theater. All other tickets may be purchased through the Playhouse Box Office at 751-7270 or online at PaulBunyan Playhouse. com.