Backstage Review: Restless Artists Theater Opens Their New Season with ‘Election Day’
~By Norm Robins~
~Photos by Dana Nöllsch~
It’s time to say goodbye to the 20th Century, and good riddance. World Wars I and II, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, Stalin’s show trials, the Soviet gulag, the Berlin Wall, the Tiananmen Massacre. Who needs them? Phooey on the 20th Century. Yuck on the 20th Century. Let’s move on.
That’s what the Restless Artists Theater is doing, and a tip of the hat to them for it. They have announced their 2019/20 season chock-full of new plays by young writers. These are fresh faces with fresh voices. They are the writers of our new century. When we look back at the 21st Century and ask who its great playwrights were, the names will be drawn from this group. Our playwright Josh Tobiessen could very well be one of them.
Our hero—well, maybe anti-hero–Adam is a marginally employed guy who would be very happy to spend the rest of his off-duty life in pajama bottoms and slippers, and he could happily do that living off the wages of his workaholic girlfriend, Brenda. She is a smart lawyer by day and in her off hours a volunteer for Jerry Clark’s opponent in today’s mayoral race. She is an uptight A-type all the time. She is very, very political. Adam? Adam couldn’t care less about politics or much of anything else for that matter.
“Election Day” is well-paced and very funny, with a dynamic cast that will make you want to go to the polls to cast your vote.Dana Nöllsch
Brenda leaves Adam alone in their apartment when she goes out on Election Day with a cache of posters and handbills for some last-minute campaigning. Her only requirement is that he put on his big boy pants and shoes, walk down the street of this anonymous small town to the polling place, and vote.
That’s easy enough, right? Wrong. Fate intervenes, and events drag our anti-hero along like a sack of potatoes. Fate sends his overly libidinous sister Cleo to his apartment. Cleo has the morality of a streptococcus and a compelling need for orgasms. Where she gets them and from whom are irrelevant. She is joined by her ecoterrorist boyfriend du jour Edmund who has brought a cache of Molotov cocktails with him to do the nefarious work he has in mind. And the two of them are joined by Jerry Clark, the candidate opposing Brenda’s mayoral choice. Clark has a morality that comports nicely with Cleo’s. All in all, Adam is doomed.
After laying the groundwork, playwright Tobiessen, director Rachel Steinman, and every member of the cast move this gem of a play along at a snappy pace. It skewers everyone in need of it, uptight and tightly wound overachievers, lackadaisical couch potatoes, men and women of easy morality, ideologues who would blow up the world to save it, and politicians who would be unable to truthfully check the “I am not a robot” box. Wit and humor are machine-gunned at the audience who are not given a moment to stop laughing. The pace is frightening, delightfully so.
Uptight Brenda is performed exceptionally well by Sara Mackie. She always delivers a stellar performance in any role she plays. Hapless Adam is played with hopeless desperation by Tanner Sebastian. Libby Schipper is shameless as Cleo. Good for Libby! James Miller is evil incarnate as Edmund. He plays it with salivating abandon. Tommy Vereen plays a stereotypical politician who would sell his grandmother for a vote and deliver her for two.
Taken altogether, this performance is uproarious, outrageous, fast-paced, and a delight to see. If you want to see the best of our new playwrights, the best directing, and the finest acting available, go see this play. It will welcome you gleefully into the 21st Century.
Jerry Clark………………….Tommy Vereen
Directed by Rachel Steinman
Election Day will be performed through September 22nd with three Sunday matinees. The theater is at 295 20th St. in Sparks. Their Website is www.rattheater.org