Sunday, February 3, 2013

Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them

Last weekend I made the trip to see a play that was in the town where I went to college. The entire town has a really active theatre scene for its size, so there’s almost always something going on. This show was at Cookeville Performing Arts Center and was part of their “Backstage Series.”

I love these shows because they are so intimate. The entire show AND audience are on the stage. For this show, in particular, this was an incredible feat as there was a ROTATING set. Such an interesting title of a show, this Christopher Durang piece is entitled Why Torture Is Wrong and the People who Love Them. If you know Christopher Durang, you know that most of his shows are….disturbing, to say the least.

This show was no different. Staged in an incredible way, with a set designed by Kim Frick-Welker (and a shout out to Brandon Walls who is listed as “Master carpenter (Revolve)” in the program), perhaps my favorite part of the entire show was the set. There are several different scenes in the show, so a revolving set made it possible to have totally different sets, with little to no prop movement onstage.

Taken from CPAC's event page on fb
Another great part of the show was the song selection for both the pre-show and the scene transitions. Most were perfect for the mood, or what was happening in the scenes and I often times couldn’t help but silently sing along.

The show itself was funny, but really not my cup o’ tea. From the first scene we meet Felicity, who has woken up with a major hangover, and no memory of the night before, only to find herself married to a stranger named Zamir. Felicity, played by Kate Breidert, seems to be a sweet girl but is completely confused as to how she came to be married to Zamir, played by Matthew Wilson.

Felicity realizes quickly that Zamir is a little….off. He’s got a short fuse, and refuses to get an annulment or a divorce. When nervous and confused Felicity questions Zamir about what he does for a living and his personal life, he’s vague at best. Matthew Wilson does a good job of playing creepy. Zamir is creepy, he’s questionable, and he’s scary.

Felicity takes Zamir to her parents’ home in the suburbs, in part to meet her parents and in part so that she can get some help from her parents in finding a ways out of this marriage. We immediately meet her parents who seem to be as crazy as Zamir, just in a totally different way. Luella, Felicity’s mother, seems to be living in total denial of everything. Beverly Hedgepeth played Luella to be the type of person who adores avoiding reality. She continually talks about theatre, relating everything in her life to a show she’s seen and wanting to know if Felicity has seen any new shows, in spite of Felicity’s insistence that she hates the theatre.

Leonard is the epitome of a crazy right wing conservative. Every single crazy thing that you’ve ever heard is true, or heard made up, about a crazy conservative, Leonard is, says, believes. Leonard is played by Pat Frank. Frank is hilarious in this role. It’s almost a cartoonish take on an outspoken conservative and his wife with her head in the sand.

We later meet the “reverend” who married Felicity and Zamir. Reverend Mike is serious about his title as a reverend…and about his secondary career as a porn star/film maker. A hilarious character, Brent Fleshman gives the good reverend a slimy, yet endearing personality. You can’t help but like him, even though he’s a shady character.

We then find that Leonard is seriously off his rocker by his secret room in his house, and his friends Hildegarde and Looney Tunes who share his views and want to help bring down domestic terrorists. Played by Tracy Clark, it’s immediately obvious that Hildegarde has a crush on Leonard and that she would do anything he asked of her. Looney Tunes was played by Josh Rapp and was just that: Looney Tunes. Also crazy, Looney Tunes makes noises that remind you of your favorite cartoon characters.

When Felicity thinks that it’s possible that Zamir might be a terrorist, her father thinks the same thing. While Felicity is one to just pacify the situation, her father wants to do the exact opposite. When Zamir and Leonard meet, they immediately dislike each other. Felicity just wants the whole thing to go away, and Luella just keeps talking about theatre and changing the subject.

In true Christopher Durang fashion, there are bloody body parts in this show, and a very, very, very odd ending involving time travel. Honestly, when the show was over, I wasn’t quite sure if I’d seen a bashing of the conservatives, a Dr. Who special, or a comedy. And I kind of liked that.

While it wasn’t a show for everyone (the people sitting in front of me left at intermission), it was a show that was well done, well-acted, and funny, if you don’t take things too seriously. I enjoyed myself and left only slightly confused (time travel seems to do that to me).

I’m sad to say that it closed this past Friday and I’d like to apologize to the cast for only now getting this posted. It was a fun show and something on the fringes of “acceptable” in the mostly conservative South. Which is something I’ve come to expect from theatre in the Cookeville area.

You can check out the upcoming shows at Cookeville Performing Arts Center by visiting their website.

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