On May 4, Over Our Head Players opens the unique “on-line bedroom farce” You’ve Got Hate Mail by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore. Described as “sex, lies, and laptops, You’ve Got Hate Mail runs three weekends May 4 – May 20 at the Sixth Street Theatre, 318 Sixth Street, Downtown Racine. Reservations are available through the box office, (262)632-6802. Tickets are $13.50 and $15.50. You’ve Got Hate Mail is for mature audiences only.

Love “bytes” when an extra-marital affair goes horribly wrong. Love letters are replaced by email, and the action depends on desktops, laptops, Blackberries, and iPhones. In this madcap comedy, five actors sit in front of laptops, venting about the next outrageous e-mails they will write. Each actor’s riff seems more salacious and filled with double-entendre than the previous. It’s a cutting, comic play inspired by A.R. Gurney’s play Love Letters and told entirely through e-mails. Central to the story: a cheating husband who accidentally sends a self-incriminating missive to his wife.

Playwrights Jane Milmore and Billy Van Zandt, long time friends and collaborators, descript the unlikely genesis of the show in a Star-Ledger interview: “During my divorce, there were some e-mails that Billy once said, ‘You should save these. They’re funny,’ ”Milmore says. “We had seen a production of Love Letters that my wife (actress Adrienne Barbeau) was in and we sat in the audience and said, ‘Oh why didn’t we think of this? This is a brilliant idea,’ ”Van Zandt adds.”We attempted to do something just called ‘Hate Mail’ after that and it didn’t work. It was letter writing back and forth and it didn’t feel right. And then once Jane went through the divorce, we saw the e-mails and a little bell went off and we went, ‘Oh, that’s the show.’ ”

In typical Over Our Head Players style, You’ve Got Hate Mail is a very new play. In fact, the original production is still running in New York and a tour has just begun.

Authors Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore were dubbed “The Masters of Modern Farce” by The New York Times and have been among the most produced playwrights in the world for over three decades. Van Zandt and Milmore have also garnered multiple film and TV awards for their work as stage actors, producers, and writers. Their writing partnership has lead to over 23 plays and several sitcoms.

Their sitcom credits include both writing and producing. The joint Van Zandt-Milmore résumé ranges from Newhart to Anything But Love to Martin to Bless This House, and also included Yes, Dear and The Hughleys. Their 1990 TV special about the original pilot of I Love Lucy earned the pair an Emmy nomination.

Each summer, they return to their theatrical roots as they return to their home-state of New Jersey to debut a new comedy. Together, they have written a couple dozen plays. One of the best-known Van Zandt and Milmore scripts is the oft-produced Love, Sex, and the I.R.S; Racine audiences will recognize them as the playwrights of Bathroom Humor and Do Not Disturb.

OOHPs Managing Artistic Director Rich Smith shares the group’s take on You’ve Got Hate Mail: “We are excited to be one of the first community theatres to tackle this new hit comedy, by two of our favorite comic writers. Van Zandt and Milmore bring bedroom farce into the new millennium.” He adds, “It’s great to have Tom Spraker back in the director’s seat for this show. Tom has been active in Racine theatre for over 30 years, and Tom’s love and experience with farce comedy made him a great fit for directing Hate Mail!”

The You’ve Got Hate Mail cast includes Aura Lesnjak, Gregory Lesnjak, Kari Pavia, Joseph Piirto, and Terri Tylla.  Retired high school drama teacher and Over Our Head Players box office manager Tom Spraker directs, Jim Smith production manages, and Vanessa Manrique stage manages You’ve Got Hate Mail. The staff includes Joseph Piirto, Rich Smith, Brad Kostreva, Claudia F. Bruce, Adam Krueger, Maggie Daly, Jerry Horton, Diane Carlson, Ron Schulz, Tom Spraker, and Janine Anderson.

You’ve Got Hate Mail runs May 4, 5, 6; May 11, 12, 13; and May 18, 19, 20. Fridays are at 8:00; Saturdays are at 5:30 and 8:00; Sundays are at 2:30. Tickets are $15.50 on Fridays and Saturdays and $13.50 on Sundays. For reservations or information, please call the box office, (262)632-6802. Tickets are also available online at http://www.overourheadplayers.org. All performances are at the Sixth Street Theatre, 318 Sixth Street, Racine. You’ve Got Hate Mail is for mature audiences only due to strong language and adult content. Advance reservations are recommended as previous productions have sold out.

Over Our Head Players operates the 6th Street Theatre, Downtown Racine. A non-profit organization of volunteer theatrical talent from throughout Southeastern Wisconsin celebrating their 20th season, OOHPs focuses on contemporary comedies and original productions. Their season closes in June with a limited engagement bonus production, Theatre/Schmeatre, an evening of sketch comedy.

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