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Local playwright makes LI premiere at Arena

Steve Godzdiewski and Michelle Torres in Arena Players

Steve Godzdiewski and Michelle Torres in Arena Players Repertory Theater Company 's production of "All Aboard the Marriage Hearse," by Matt Morillo. Credit: Fred De Feis Photo

Like many a young man, Matt Morillo questions traditional values. What sets him apart is that he does so in plays that often bear long titles, such as his breakthrough Off-Broadway hit, "Angry Young Women in Low-Rise Jeans With High-Class Issues."

That one enjoyed five mostly sold-out runs at Theater for the New City in lower Manhattan. It also played Los Angeles, Sydney and Brisbane, Australia, and a small town in Wisconsin. His next play, "The Inventor, the Escort, the Photographer, Her Boyfriend and His Girlfriend," opens at New City shortly after New Year's.

Meanwhile, Morillo makes his Long Island premiere Friday night in the sandwich play of his five-year career, "All Aboard the Marriage Hearse," at Arena Players, near Hicksville, his hometown. It's his only title short enough to fit on Arena's marquee.

FILMMAKER TURNED PLAYWRIGHT

Morillo, a graduate of Hicksville High, class of '94, and film school at C.W. Post, class of '98, became a playwright, he says, "by accident."

"It was supposed to be just this one-night thing to raise money for a film I was doing," he says of "Angry Young Women." The movie, "Artful Dodger," about a guy who dodges commitment with the women he dates, still hasn't been shot - mostly because Morillo's one-night theater stand proved so successful. "Unbeknownst to me, somebody from New City was in the audience," he recalls. "They called me and said, 'We like your stuff.' We've had a good track record ever since."

For now, the film career is on hold. Playwriting seems to suit him. "I'm not famous or anything," Morillo says, "but I'm working."

IS 'I DO' RELEVANT ANYMORE?

As you might expect from the title, "All Aboard the Marriage Hearse" doesn't take a rosy view of the matrimonial state. Meet Sean, a magazine humorist protective of his nonconformist reputation. He's been living with his girlfriend, Amy, for three years. She wants a husband. The play is their showdown over the issue: Does marriage have any place in modern society?

Morillo, 34 and single, who splits his time between New York and Los Angeles, says he takes the nontraditionalist view. "But the character is not me. I don't do plays about myself."

The author will be there for opening night at Arena. Fittingly, right next door on the main stage is "Norman Conquests: Part II, Living Together," a Britcom by that prolific nontraditionalist Alan Aykbourn.

Frederic De Feis, owner-founder-director of Arena Players, says he chose two plays about couples living together as alternative holiday fare. "Light farce seems appropriate this time of year," he says. "Not everything has to be a Christmas show."

WHAT: "All Aboard the Marriage Hearse" and "Norman Conquests: Part II, Living Together"

WHEN | WHERE: "Marriage Hearse" Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30, Sunday at 3 p.m. through Jan. 16; "Norman Conquests" Friday and Saturday nights at 8, Sunday at 3 p.m., through Dec. 26 (no performance of either show Dec. 24 and 25), Arena Players Second Stage and Main Stage, 296 Rte. 109, East Farmingdale

INFO: $20-$25 ($2 senior discounts Fridays and Sundays); arenaplayers.org, 516-293-0674

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