Danny Scheie and Aysan Celik in Peter Sinn Nachtrieb s  The Making of a Great Moment,  opening Wednesday, Jan. 4, and running through Jan. 29 at MRT.
Danny Scheie and Aysan Celik in Peter Sinn Nachtrieb s The Making of a Great Moment, opening Wednesday, Jan. 4, and running through Jan. 29 at MRT. COURTESY PHOTO/MEAGHAN MOORE

It's play time at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, where actors Danny Scheie and Aysan Celik are laughing their heads off.

The duo is in Lowell, working on the world premiere of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's "The Making of a Great Moment," a comedy that the award-winning playwright wrote specifically to showcase their comedic genius and director Sean Daniels' keen directing chops.

Offering great laughs and plenty of smarts for the New Year, it plays the MRT from Jan. 4-29.

"It's a joy to have some of my favorite artists at MRT," Daniels said. "Peter is one of the most deliciously hilarious playwrights writing today. And Aysan and Danny are two of the best."

Scheie returns the compliment.

"I love the artistic team -- I've worked with them all before, most more than once, and you create an artistic shorthand, a relaxation, a trust that is all too rare," he said.

The four worked together five years ago at Actors Theatre of Louisville -- and they couldn't stop laughing, Scheie recalled.

"We literally could not get past certain lines in the play because we were paralyzed with laughter, so we would meet up and aggressively profess our desire to do it again," he said. "And out of sheer will to reignite unbridled joy, we made it here."

The play involves two Canadian actors who are charged with the ambitious, burdensome task of performing a play called "Great Moments in Human Achievement" on tour across the U.


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S., bringing inspiration to millions -- by bicycle. In the process, idealistic Mona and cynical Terry ponder the value of their contributions along the road to brilliance.

"We actually ride bicycles -- and it is a hoot!" Celik said. "It totally affects our bodies, breath and energy. We sweat, and the physical and mental exertion underscores the scenes we are acting."

The process is thrilling and fun-filled, she said.

"What I love most working on a new play like this is witnessing Peter's generative and editing process," she said. "Through workshops and early rehearsals, he's been writing, rewriting and editing, while Sean, Danny and I play with acting and directing choices. The collaborative relationship is rich."

And, she concluded, "Every moment is a lesson in comedy, and it's like I'm taking a course with three brilliant professors. The studio crackles with their minds and hearts responding to the story."

And once the audience adds its laughter, the riotous collaboration will be fully complete.

Tickets are $26-$70 at www.mrt.org or call 978-654-4678.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.

On the marquee

NEW YEAR'S WRAP: "America's Got Talent" winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. wraps up his 2016 Home for the Holidays tour on New Year's Eve, performing with the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston. The dreadlocked performer puts a unique twist on pop classics like "The Way It Is" and "Try A Little Tenderness." He has spent the holiday season touring and is thrilled to close out the tour with the Pops, under the direction of bandleader extraordinaire Bo Winiker. Doors open at 8:30 p.m., with a cash bar and several dining options. The concert starts at 10:15 p.m. Tickets $51-$140 at www.bso.org.

'A DOLL'S HOUSE': The Huntington Theatre Company greets 2017 with a new adaptation by Bryony Lavery of Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House," with performances Jan. 6-Feb. 5 at the Avenue of the Arts/BU Theatre in Boston. Local favorite Melia Bensussen, who has numerous credits at MRT, directs the play. At the meet-and-great, she encouraged all to "look at this as a brand-new play, a vibrant play that brings this conversation of how we can live with other people while being true to ourselves." It stars Andrea Syglowski as Nora Helmer and Sekou Laidlow as her husband, Torvald Helmer. Tickets start at $25 at www.huntingtontheatre.org or call 617-266-0800.

IN THE WINGS: Tickets are on sale for "Mamma Mia!," playing a limited one-week run at the Boston Opera House, May 30-June 4. Visit www.BroadwayInBoston.com, or call Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787. ... Looking ahead to the summer theater season, Ogunquit Playhouse has three shows lined up for 2017. They are "Mamma Mia!," "Ragtime" and "Bullets Over Broadway." Two other shows will be added to the lineup in the coming months. Visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org for subscription information. Single tickets will be available at a later date.