YOU ENJOY MYSELF – Written by Topher Payne; Directed by Betty Hart. Produced by Local Theatre Company (Presented at the Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St, Boulder) through October 14. Tickets available at 303/444-7328 or the dairy.org.
What a delightful script! Topher Payne is a genius at creating the strings of a plot, revealing them in a series of unrelated scenes, and then pulling them all together to create an Act I final scene full of shock and awe. At least in this play, Act II is then spent sorting out all the problems/relationships unleashed in Act I. All of which creates a funny yet thoughtful story about the many ways people can win love, lose love, and just fool around a little. He’s a playwright we should be seeing more of; his bio reports that he has more than 20 scripts published. Local is lucky to have scored the world premiere of this one.
But, of course, the most clever and witty script would be nothing without the strong hand of a knowing director and a sterling cast. Luckily, Local Theatre has both. Betty Hart oversaw the creation of this fun piece of theatre, found a way of using the set to accommodate a variety of settings, and drew strong performances out of her cast of six. It helps that she has perfectly cast the show.
Eden Lane, a beloved individual in the community for the work she has done on behalf of advancing theatre as an art form, makes her Colorado debut in this piece. As the Narrator of the story and a participant in the action, Judith’s steady calm demeanor belies the heady romantic story she begins. But after her short exposition about Phish, their phans, and the part they have played in her history, the next scene starts with a bang as we find an attractive older woman in bed wondering “what the heck did I do at that concert?” as an attractive younger man finishes his shower and returns to her side.
The fun builds from there on. A pair of lovers (Isabel and Jasper) argue over his misinterpretation of a “hall pass.” A tour musician, he leaves for an extended trip, so she decides to travel with her best friend Cory to an origin source for all Phish phans, a cottage in the woods of Vermont to visit the author of the definitive book about Phish. They don’t meet who they anticipated but are invited to stay. Because of Cory’s incessant posting on social media, Jasper can track down where Isabel is; he and his tour buddy Archie make a side trip to Vermont in an effort at reconciliation. The sixth member of this sextet (pun intended) arrives to set up the most convoluted coincidental gathering of Phish Phanery you’ve ever seen. It takes another whole act to sort out the connections that work, those that don’t and those that have possibilities. Including one of the cutest and (probably) most authentic gay seductions written for the stage to date.
But wrapped around the fun of this production are equally meaningful conversations about the nature of love, the need to care and be cared for, and the pain of becoming convinced that it isn’t going to work, no matter how fond you are of each other. References to interpretations of Phish songs abound throughout including an impromptu jam session led by guitarist Joe Mazza who sits on the sidelines throughout the performance chiming in with background music when appropriate. The other actors join in on harmonica, tambourine, guitar and vocally with a few random “heys” thrown in for good measure (a signature call by Phish in performance inviting the audience to join in the music). As one not familiar with this particular band or type of music, I don’t feel qualified to comment on this groups devotion to the music and the lifestyle it engendered, but I’m staggered by their commitment and knowledge. “What was the encore?” becomes a rallying cry.
Bobby Bennett as the droll gay best friend Cory is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. His recent turn in THE INHERITANCE was unforgettable; now he follows it up with this lighter role with equal skill. You believe every word that comes out of his mouth; he’s not saying dialogue that someone else wrote, he’s simply talking. He is the master of the eye roll. His scene with Archie as played with Ryan Omar Stack is a model of well written dialogue delivered with ease and authenticity. Iliana Lucero Barron is a beautiful young woman who is confused by her boyfriend’s actions and feels the need to reconnect with something solid. Her confusion and hurt are well translated. Jihad Milhem, always a force to be reckoned with on stage, plays an equally hurt and confused boyfriend who tries desperately to make things right before everything goes wrong. Anne Sandoe bravely plays Eileen, the older woman from the first scene. Anne is a long-time playmaker in theatres all over the Front Range and brings a steadiness and naturalness born of experience in addition to talent to her role as a long lost lover. Eden in her debut role holds her own with this crew with a sensitive poignant performance of the one who waits.
Special kudos to Susan Crabtree, Benjamin Smith, Mandy Kay Heath and Cipriano Orgeta who designed the set, lights and props and worked together to create this charming little cottage in the woods complete with a porch outlined in colored lights, a headboard made out of branches, a living room you can’t even see into that looks fully furnished, a whimsical Barbie masthead over the house, and a background painting of a green lush bower that wraps around the house. Susan Rahmsdorff-Terry provided the semi-hippy clothing for Judith and Eileen and the contemporary clothing for the others, including a donut dress which is obviously emblematic of a Phish song.
While not exactly providing a happy ending for everyone, this script and this cast provides a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon or evening for their audiences. Unfortunately, there’s only one more weekend to this run – so grab some tickets while you can.
A WOW factor of 8.75!!