By Ann McCreary
Four short comedies with a common theme — love and relationships at various stage of life — will be presented in a Readers’ Theater production Friday and Saturday nights (April 17 – 18) at The Merc Playhouse.
“This show is guaranteed to make you laugh,” said director Laurelle Walsh. “Some of it is hilarious, and some is bittersweet. You can be the grumpiest person in the valley, and you’ll be laughing.”
The entertaining examination of romance — or potential romance — looks at relationships in childhood, exploring the possibilities as a young adult, and re-discovering love later in life, Walsh said.
“I chose these plays to provoke laughter, thought and, hopefully, conversation,” Walsh said.
While each of the four short plays provides a different perspective on the theme, “they fit together really nicely,” Walsh said. “It fits together as a show.”
All the plays are contemporary, none more than a decade old, and each runs less than 15 minutes.
The performance opens with Controlling Interest by Seattle playwright Wayne S. Rawley, a play about how children learn gender roles. It features the six-person cast of Joanna Bastian, Andy Miller, Tim Odell, Raven Odion, Frank Vander Wall and George Wooten.
In the play, four successful young businessmen gather for their weekly staff meeting. Two persuasive young businesswomen arrive to negotiate a deal: the boys may start liking them, but only on the girls’ terms.
The twist to this play, Walsh said, is that the “adults are playing the roles of 8- or 9-year-olds, but playing them as adults. It’s kind of complicated, but it works when you see it on stage.”
A Tall Order, by Sheri Wilner, features Bastian and Miller as a couple on a dinner date early in their relationship. “She’s agonizing over what to order, because she feels it will reflect on her. It looks at the hidden meaning behind food and what you consume,” Walsh said.
“In communication between the genders, are you what you order? When is a pork chop more than a pork chop?”
The third play, The Scary Question, also by Wayne Rawley, is about a couple that appears to be on the verge of contemplating marriage. But when the man gets down on bended knee and pops an important question, it’s not the one expected.
“Now the two face a serious and scary discussion about their relationship, and zombies,” Walsh said.
Walsh created a twist in the original play, with Rawley’s permission. Originally written for a male and female, the play will feature two men. Walsh said she made the change in part to enable each of her actors to perform in two plays.
Additionally, Walsh said, “we had plays only representing one kind of relationship — male and female. I wanted to make it more inclusive … more like the real world.” The Scary Question features Odell and Vander Wall.
The final play, A Blooming of Ivy, is a bittersweet story of Ivy, a widow, and George, a widower, who have been farm neighbors and friends for many years.
One morning George wakes to the sound of Ivy’s tractor and realizes that this is the first morning has hasn’t “woken up mad” since his wife died. He spruces up a bit and pays Ivy a call. Wooten and Odion play the roles of George and Ivy.
In preparing for the show, Walsh said, playwrights Sheri Wilner and Wayne Rawley were each contacted about using their scripts, and both took a personal interest in The Merc production. “In fact both playwrights had minor unpublished script changes that they asked me to make,” Walsh said.
“What was interesting to me is that playwrights really do care about their babies. They put them out there for theaters to perform. Even with little community theaters like The Merc, they care that we interpret their play in the way they intended.”
Lights and sound for the production will be provided by the mother-and-son team of Darla and Dean Hussey.
The Festival of Contemporary One-Act Plays is this weekend only at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Admission is by donation.