NEW MARKET — Last year, Rouss Center for the Arts introduced audiences to Virgil and Margaret Sludge and their fictional small town Lickskillit in “Virgil and the City Slickers.”
The New Market-based community theater group are reprising their roles in a second installment of the comedy series, “Virgil Wins the Lottery,” starting this weekend.
The play, created by Eddie McPherson, is directed by Debbi Miller Stevens, a veteran actor and director of the Rouss Center and the Schultz Theatre when it was located in New Market.
In this next episode of Virgil and Margaret’s lives, audiences will see the couple struggle with suddenly acquired wealth.
“In this, they win the lottery,” Stevens said. “And as a lot of people do, they learn that coming into money sometimes changes people for the better, but sometimes for the worst.”
Virgil’s wife is furious when she learns that her husband was secretly purchasing lottery tickets for the past two years.
“Virgil bought the ticket without Margaret knowing,” said Joshua Newman, who’s playing the character.
But Margaret’s aversion of the lottery changes quickly, according to Tracy Conard, who’s playing Margaret.
“Margaret does think it’s a very sinful game to be playing, until we win,” she said.
The cast members enjoy revisiting their roles from last year. Newman and Conard, in particular, like the relationship between Virgil and Margaret.
“Margaret is maybe a smidge smarter than the rest of them but she’s still got an innocence about her. She’s just a fun person to me,” Conard said. “I think they’re great friends as well as being husband and wife.”
Stevens didn’t want to disclose just how much the Sludges win because of a plot twist she didn’t want to give away, but she said it’s a substantial amount, especially for a rural town like Lickskillit.
The Sludges are suddenly bombarded by friends and neighbors who all want a piece of the pie.
“It’s a huge deal,” Conard said. “The phone rings off the hook after they win. It’s definitely the true [idea that] everybody crawls out of the woodwork as soon as you’ve made your money.”
Virgil and Margaret begin to live more extravagantly with their new wealth, but a turn of events teaches them a hard lesson about money.
“They really do go through the ‘We won, we’re better than you’ to the point that they start to alienate their friends and family, and they’re taught a very poignant lesson near the end and realize that money really isn’t the important thing in life,” she said. “It really is your friends and family.”
The importance of familial love is a recurrent theme in the “Virgil” plays, according to Stevens.
“If you’ve got those things, sometimes that’s all you really need,” she said. “It will leave you laughing at the end. The message has been learned and you’ll be glad that it works out the way it does.”
The Rouss Center, located at 9357 N. Congress St., draws local actors as far as Front Royal, Staunton and Waynesboro.
But a challenge for the Rouss Center has been the 13-person cast the production requires.
“For community theater in New Market, it means that some people are going to have double duty,” Stevens said. “We all pitch in as stage manager, set manager and with art and props and everything else.”
But Stevens is grateful for a community that supports local theater.
“I am truly thankful that there are people here and in the community that believe supporting the arts on this level is important,” she said. “This is a chance to be somebody else for a little bit, or leave your troubles behind and watch something just for the fun of it.”
Showtimes are May 3-4, 10-11 at 7 p.m. and May 5 and 12 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors.