Anyone familiar with the theater scene in Rhode Island likely knows about a small gem, 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, which has been around for 10 years in an old warehouse that until recently, was long on spartan charm but short on upscale elegance. It was theater in the round, with sloping tiers of seats facing a smallish circle where props and set pieces were wheeled in and out between scenes, often by the actors using them.
Earlier this year, the theater unveiled a $20,000 renovation which put 150 director-style chairs on a single tier directly in front of the audience, and a huge thrust stage big enough to create a hotel suite with three-step sunken living room, separate bathroom and balcony overlooking a superimposed city skyline in the current very funny production of Alan Acykbourn's "Communicating Doors," running through Oct. 23. The renovation also improved the lighting system.
The downstairs remains the same, with a wide lounge area and adjacent to it, a room with a wood-paneled bar and seating area with copper-top tables where you can get things like Narragansett beer for $5 a bottle, popcorn in aluminum pails for $3 and take whatever you get into the show. Though the theater space was renovated, it still retains its intimate charm. There are no curved seating areas, all chairs face the stage straight on.
Warren is one of those little Rhode Island towns tucked between here and there, in this case with Providence to the north, Newport to the south. It has an extensive dining scene, where pre-show you can get Italian food at places like Federal Hill Pizza, Portuguese at Jack's Family Restaurant, or more upscale fare at the venerable Wharf Tavern, a local dining institution that's been around for decades but had closed early this year when it changed hands. It has since reopened.
2nd Story Theatre's season continues with "Little Women" Nov. 11-Dec. 11, "The Suitors" Nov. 18-Dec. 18, presented at the historic Bristol Statehouse in neighboring Bristol; "Take Me Out" Jan. 13-Feb. 12; "Osage County" March 2-April 1; and "The Divine Sister" April 20-May 20. For more information, visit www.2ndstorytheatre.com, or call 401-247-4200.