Steve Wood, left, as Ross and David Alexander Johnston develop a quirky friendship in "Visiting Mr. Green." Audiences are likely to grow along with the characters, the director says.


Need a reason to get out and go see a play?

Here are five good ones to hop in the car and catch "Visiting Mr. Green," previewing tonight and Friday and opening Saturday at Live Theatre Workshop - and we're not even going to mention that the theater's air-conditioned:

1. The Jeff Baron play is about an elderly curmudgeon - Mr. Green - and a young corporate exec who are forced to spend time together - the result of the young man nearly running over the elderly one. They become friends, but it's a mighty rocky road. Yet one, ultimately, that teaches them fresh perspectives. The comedy is wrapped in a kind of sweetness. Since its 1996 premiere, it's been translated into 22 languages and has won fans and awards around the world. You'll laugh, maybe cry and most likely have a good time.

2. A talented twosome make up the cast: David Alexander Johnston in the role of cranky Mr. Green, and Steve Wood as the young exec, Ross, who finds himself nurturing this man trapped in thick loneliness. Johnston is in his 50s, but playing 86 poses no problem for him, says director Rhonda Hallquist. "David, physically, ages very well," she says.

We're pretty sure that's a compliment.

3. There is more than just laughs here. There's a truth to it that lingers, says Hallquist, explaining the characters are deeply human, with attributes many will recognize in themselves.

But what she really loves about it is its message.

"We have a phase in our lives called 'youth' where we get to grow, and I think we think we have to stop doing that," she says.

"That's a mistake. This play sees both these characters grow further than they thought they could. By default, it gives us a chance to grow as well."

4. Theatrical choices during Tucson's summers are limited.

And it's important to support local productions.

But there's another reason to buy that ticket and see the show, Hallquist says.

"Theater is looking at yourself for two hours and discovering a new way to think or believe, or a new avenue of thought. Even if you don't feel changed, you can see something differently. That's the gift playwrights give us."

5. OK, we lied - we are going to mention the air-conditioning. Sometimes it gets so cool at Live Theatre that you need a sweater. Doesn't that sound downright delicious about this time of year?

If you go

• What: Live Theatre Workshop's production of "Visiting Mr. Green."

• Playwright: Jeff Baron.

• Director: Rhonda Hallquist.

• When: Previews are 7:30 p.m. today and Friday; opening is 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 31.

• Where: Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway.

• Tickets: Previews are $12; regular performances $18. Discounts available.

• Reservations, information: 327-4242,

• Cast: David Alexander Johnston, Steve Wood.

• Running time: About 90 minutes, with one intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.