The Bay Theatre folks know how to throw a great party to announce their coming season and celebrate their past ones.
Describing the next year as "a dream of a season," Bay Theatre co-founder and artistic director Lucinda Merry-Browne recently announced the 2005-2006 season - the company's fourth - to a capacity audience seated in the theater.
The three-play season opens in October with Sam Shepherd's Fool for Love - a tale of cowboy Eddie's forbidden love for May, who loves and hates him, and is tired of being used.
January brings Neil Simon's classic 1963 comedy Barefoot in the Park about young love in a Manhattan top-floor walk-up apartment.
The season closes in May with Moliere's Tartuffe, which is set in 17th-century Paris and examines the religious hypocrisy of certain aristocrats who preach morality and piety while behaving differently.
It looks as if Bay Theatre has found another celebrated wit who, in exposing the foibles of his own age, may illuminate our own. Merry-Browne explained that Neil Simon's comedy was chosen "to brighten the winter after the somewhat darker opener of Shepherd's play."
The announcement of Bay's next season highlighted an event that included auction segments interspersed between live performances of play excerpts from last year's season.
Festivities began in the courtyard at 275 West St., transformed into a patio of glowing summer ambience. Guests were invited inside the theater later to enjoy the past season through play excerpts and to appreciate auctioneer Alan Shay's skills at coaxing bids on artwork, chocolates, dinners and show tickets.
Revisiting the just-ended season was a treat, with scenes re-created from George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man by a cast that included Steve Beall, Rena Cherry Brown and Kinsey Dickey. These skilled actors picked up a scene midway through the play, bringing their characters instantly to life.
My favorite from last season was Harold Pinter's Betrayal, which I marveled at all over again as the actors invested their characters with substance and authenticity.
Actor Chip Lamb did a scene from Chesapeake - a play that, while not from the regular season, held its own while providing high comedy.
Merry-Browne thanked her steering committee: Theresa Brady, Bettze Libson, Liz Mehl, Renee Olson, Becky Quattlebaum and Robin Shay.
Bay's co-founder Janet Luby estimated there were about 80 guests on hand Saturday "to play supporting roles" by paying $85 each or $150 per couple to make the event a success.
Said Merry-Browne: "Last weekend's fund-raiser ... netted us nearly $7,000. These funds will be used to defray the operating expenses of the theater and are particularly valuable to us now as we enter the summer months when the theater is dark."
Information on next season and subscription rates: 410-268-1333, or www.baytheatre.org.