Friday, September 25, 2015

To die for

Friedlander skewers the Grim Reaper
by Christopher Key

George Carlin once said “Anything that everybody does, but nobody talks about, is funny.”  Playwright Andy Friedlander figures that includes death and the result is a wildly funny, and occasionally poignant, “play in 13 scenes,” which opened this week at the Idiom Theatre.

Death (the final irony) is one of those theatrical treasures that will not only entertain you at the performance, but will give you something to think about until you kick the bucket.  Or maybe beyond.  Friedlander recruited his long-time friend and colleague Donald Drummond to direct.  Since Drummond has been doing Shakespeare for years, he knows from death.  Add a brilliant cast of actors and you have a truly deadly combination.

Chris Coombs gets the funeral underway as an actor-turned-lawyer who is about to explore “the undiscovered country” thanks to a fatal disease.  He even manages to remind us that there are things worse than death.  Like watching William Shatner on TV for eternity.

One of my favorite local actors is Zoe Bronstein.  She simply sparkles as the slightly cynical salesperson who is hawking “The Afterlife Experience” for some slightly shady New Age startup.  The best part is that she reappears two more times in slowly increasing states of inebriation as her cheerleader persona gradually crumbles into truth-telling.

Lest the audience begin to think that death is all fun and games, the wonderful Heather Dyer comes on to wrestle with how to say goodbye to an overbearing parent who has made your life miserable.  There is some really deep stuff here about parent/child relationships that will make you squirm and that, my friends, is great theatre.

Samantha Stewart and Chris Coombs play it noir in Death (the final irony).  Photo credit - Bennett Williamson

Friedlander then goes all Raymond Chandler with Chris Coombs as the proverbial hard-bitten private eye who tries to explain to a ditzy dame (Samantha Stewart) why she should choose not to jump.  The two play very well together and how noir can you get about death?

There are headlines almost daily about how the social media can often be used to bully people into offing themselves.  Kendall Uyeji delivers a powerful performance as one of those potential suicides and his constant use of a smartphone to check on whether or not he should do the deed is devastating.

After another sales pitch from Bronstein, Friedlander unashamedly reveals his age by resurrecting “The Joke Wall” from a prehistoric TV comedy called “Laugh-In.”  The entire cast joins in throwing one-liners about death from every angle and you’ll probably want to see the show twice in order to catch the ones you missed the first time.

Lucas Naylor gets his zombie on.  Photo credit - Bennett Williamson

Speaking of which, a vampire and a zombie walk into a bar…  Dyer returns as a bloodsucker who falls in love with a braineater, played by the inimitable Lucas Naylor.  They want to get married, but can’t figure out the whole “’til death do us part” thing.

Dyer, Coombs, Stewart, Uyeji and Bronstein then reunite for a scene called “A Matter of Life and Death.”  No way I’m going to spoil this one for you.

We are then treated to another Naylorian performance wherein he plays an intellectually-challenged individual trying to philosophize about the whole death thing.  Dude, it’s like totally awesome!

After another hilarious interlude with Bronstein, Naylor shows off his dramatic chops as a man suffering his final heart attack alone, with no phone, radio.

Perhaps poignancy is the best way to end this meditation on death and Leon Charbonneau will make you cry as he reminisces about his late wife.  In this case, death is not the worst thing.  Being left alone when your spouse dies is.

We are fortunate here in this City of Subdued Excitement to have an independent theatre like the Idiom where productions like these can be staged.  You can show your appreciation by getting your tickets now at (the final irony) plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week and next at the Idiom playhouse on Cornwall.

Just in case you can’t get there, the production will also play October 9 and 10 in the Phillip Tarro Theatre at Skagit Valley College.  It’s a fundraiser for the SVC theatre scholarship program.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Chris. We are also fortunate in this City of Subdued Excitement to have a commentator (I prefer that to 'critic') and reviewer to cover new plays. All theatre communities benefit from discussions of new work that help inform and enlighten the live theatre audience. Andy Friedlander