“Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” takes place in Lincoln’s rural Illinois hometown. A fourth-grade Christmas Pageant crosses the line in questioning Lincoln’s sexuality, setting off a chain of events where the townspeople question everything. The play mirrors many community’s struggles in these changing times.
To understand Noises Off it helps to know Murphy’s Law and O’Toole’s Commentary on Murphy’s Law aka O’Toole’s Corollary. Murphy’s Law says if anything can go wrong, it will. O’Toole’s Corollary says Murphy was an optimist. And if the purpose of theater is to hold a mirror up to ourselves so we can see clearly who and what we are then Noises Off tells us we are all doomed.
Our two heroes are 49-year-old Sterling and his 17-year-old niece Becky. Sterling is a recluse hiding out in a Costa Rican jungle far from any large city. He was a lawyer caught up in some nasty, illegal financial dealings. He claims ignorance of what happened except that some people were hurt and he made a lot of money. He was never involved in the firm’s financial dealings. He and his partner were put on trial. His partner went to jail for 15 years, but Sterling was acquitted. Nonetheless, he fled the shame of it all to a Costa Rican jungle years ago where he lives sparingly if comfortably. He takes daily walks in a labyrinth of his own design and construction. His labyrinth is where he goes to think things through and to heal his troubled soul. It is more understandable to him than the confusing, troublesome maze he left behind.
One of the thinkers forced to think by that catastrophe is a young talented British playwright Lucy Kirkwood. Her play The Children inspired by that nuclear catastrophe premiered in London in 2016 and in New York on Broadway in 2017. It will be performed by the Brüka Theater in Reno opening February 7th and running through February 29th.
This play is an ensemble piece, a fast-paced tragedy and comedy that will leave you touched by the humanity of it all and laughing uproariously at its comedy. But it is different from ordinary plays. Ordinarily, a play lays some groundwork by showing us the characters and the situation. Then the playwright builds some tension and some conflict. In the denouement at the end the conflicts and tensions are resolved, and all the loose ends are tied up. The play has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Elwood P. Dowd is certifiably insane but not by happenstance. He is that way by choice. It’s the only way he can cope with an insane world. Sane people act insane in an insane world. Dowd did that for 40 years but gave it up for a sane world of his own creation. As he tells us, “…I wrestled with reality for forty years, and I am happy to state that I finally won out over it.” And in Dowd’s reality one must be “…so smart…or so pleasant. For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.” He is the most pleasant person imaginable.
Casey is a happy-go-lucky guy who is employed at Cleo’s, a bar in Florida’s Panama City Beach in the panhandle. He earns his living, such as it is, as an Elvis Impersonator. He wears Elvis garb and lip-syncs to Elvis music. His life is about to change. Cleo’s is going down the financial toilet, and so is Casey’s career. Bar owner Eddie, desperate for more revenue, brings in two female impersonators, Tracy and Rexy, to replace him. It looks like he’s out of work.
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