A New Jersey theater makes people laugh, but also sends a message about going through a rough experience as it wraps up its pandemic season of virtual shows.

A play upon a play might just be the perfect subject to bring to life on stage after a prolonged shutdown from a pandemic.

“It was so emotional, when we finally got to the theater, to be on a real stage,” said Julie Halston, cast member of “It’s Only a Play”.

Halston is one of seven actors in the first full George Street Playhouse production to be made since the start of the pandemic. It was recorded for streaming at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center without an audience. The play is a love letter to the theater.

Director Kevin Cahoon said the COVID-19 protocols in place – including limited staff and strict schedules – have posed challenges.

“I have never been so stressed in my life. Watching the clock and looking at the script pages … Did we get cover of this punchline? Did we have sufficient coverage? Cahoon said.

It was the first time the cast and crew had worked together in person since the start of the pandemic.

“I cried just seeing the hairdresser and makeup artist. I just started to cry. As soon as I start to see eyelashes on a table, I start to cry. And we had it all, ”says Halston.

Set at a party after a play’s opening night, the eccentric cast of characters eagerly await reviews, which will mean life or death for the play. Halston portrays the maniacal grande dame, hoping for a comeback in her career.

While the plot may surround the theater, between laughs there is a message for everyone, according to Cahoon.

“It’s about resilience, this piece. No matter how bad the reviews are, no matter how bad the night has been, the next morning you get up, ”Cahoon explains.

“It’s Only a Play” was written by Terrence McNally. It’s available to stream until July 4.

Ticket buyers can stream “It’s Only a Play” by purchasing through the George Street Theater website. The non-profit professional theater plans to reopen for in-person performances this fall.