The Merc Playhouse isn’t known for cheeseball comedies, but its “Book of Liz” Readers Theater production — which opens Friday (Jan. 6) — is one that will go down easy.
Written by the comedic sibling duo Amy and David Sedaris in 2002, “Book of Liz” is directed by Phil Quevillon, who learned about the play in 2011 while working a seasonal job on Nantucket.
“I saw ‘Book of Liz’ twice in a week,” Quevillon said. “I was dumbfounded how witty and light-heartedly it dealt with situations of appreciation and patriarchal stumbling blocks. I’ve dreamed of bringing it to the stage ever since.”
The story centers on Sister Elizabeth Donderstock, “who is feeling unappreciated in her Squeamish community and decides to try her luck in the outside world. She abandons her fellow brethren to their own devices in making her famous cheeseballs. They quickly discover that her cheeseball recipe cannot be recreated and panic that she has sabotaged their recipe,” according to The Merc’s website.
The source of disillusionment for Donderstock (Liz) is the less experienced man who has been given her job — no laughing matter in either fiction or reality. So Liz abandons her church sect, Clusterhaven, and sets out to experience the secular world.
“The contrast of rustic lifestyles and the modern imitation of simple life is a wonderful parody of what we have here in the valley,” Quevillon said. For example, the fictional Plymouth Crock Restaurant that Liz finds herself working at pretends to be a pilgrim kitchen in the play, capitalizing on tourists’ interests in a themed experience.
Quevillon said he would have loved to be in the play, but is “confident it’s in better hands with the hilarious actors the valley provided:” Mike Weygint, who will be making his stage debut; Zanna Gable, who brought a wide range of voices and perfect comedic timing to a fall Readers Theater production; Cliff Middleton, whom Quevillon knows from storytelling circles but who is only available in the wildfire off-season; and Emily Doran, who frequently lights up The Merc stage as well as its backstage and operations. The lead role of Liz is played by Rose Weagant, Merc veteran, writer, storyteller and Okanogan High School art teacher.
Despite its under- and overtones of irreverence, “Book of Liz” celebrates social, ethnic and religious diversity, albeit in a satirical manner. There are no “extreme adult situations or hateful speech,” Quevillon said, but there is “the kind of colorful talk you might hear on public transportation.”
The Readers Theater format allows the audience to experience the dialog and flavor of the play, without requiring lengthy rehearsal time, set construction and costume design. By producing a handful of Readers Theater productions each year, sprinkled amongst The Merc’s full-scale productions, The Merc gives Methow Valley audiences more opportunities to experience live theater through a variety of stories.
“I hope we can fit in everyone who wants to slap their knees and split their sides with laughter,” Quevillon said.
“Book of Liz” shows Jan. 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Jan 15. Doors open 30 minutes prior to the show. Tickets are $10/ at the door; no advance sales. Find more information at www.mercplayhouse.org.