The play ‘It’s a Disaster’ is anything but
Special to Prospector
KNOW & GO
Event: “It’s A Disaster,” directed by Cosmo Merryweather
Who: Upstart Theatre Company
When: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through May 25. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Unchurch, 220 Bresee Place Grass Valley
Cost: $15 tickets online, $20 tickers at the door
What would you do if you’re attending a brunch with friends when, suddenly, you find out that everyone will die within three hours?
That’s the farcical, quirky and darkly humorous premise of “It’s A Disaster,” the current production by the Upstart Theatre Company. The well-done doomsday play is funny and irreverent, but you wince at the offbeat humor more often than you laugh out loud.
This play evolved from a 2012 movie by Todd Berger. Seven friends and one newcomer, in various stages of coupledom, gather for a Sunday brunch. Since most of them have known one another for years, conversations appear familiar and convivial on the surface but are embed with covert barbs and hidden agendas in almost everything they say and do.
Then the phones and electricity go off. A neighbor in a bright yellow hazmat suit stops by and informs them that several dirty bombs have been detonated a few miles away. Because they are self-involved thirty-somethings, they take a considerable while to figure out that they’re in the midst of a cataclysmic event, with deadly nerve gas outside.
With the specter of imminent annihilation as the overarching theme, the play could be called a black comedy, but it’s more like a comedy of really bad manners, exhibited at one time or another by almost all of the characters. One of the most darkly funny scenes is when an additional couple, always very late for the monthly brunches, shows up at the door, both looking very sickly, but are not allowed inside — not only because they might contaminate the group, but because they need to be taught not to be late.
Yet the play’s funniest moments are quiet flashes of character — both good and bad — expertly timed and nimbly played by a deft troupe of actors, many familiar faces on Nevada County’s stages: Micah Cone, Danny De Luca, Beth Freedman, Alexis Gross, Kate Haight, Tina Marie Kelley, Anthony Lorenzo, Cosmo Merryweather, Michele Nesbit and T.E. Wolfe.
This play works because of the excellent ensemble efforts, as well as some very creative intercutting with video sequences set inside a car and in a garage, expertly filmed by Camen Hodges. In fact, the female character’s statements in the quite funny opening video are really a summarizing of the closing scene for the audience.
Director Cosmo Merryweather (also one of the actors) has drawn out the darkness, humanity and humor from his cast. Aided by the effective set design by Pam Hodges, Merryweather has caused the action and actors to flow smoothly all around the stage so that, visually, there is always something interesting happening.
This play is Upstart Theatre Company’s sixth production and is worth seeing. It’s quirky, funny, wince-inducing, irreverent and well-done. It will continue through May 25 at the Unchurch (a former church turned into a theater and event venue), located off of Hughes Road in Grass Valley. For more information, go to http://www.upstarttheatrecompany.com.
Hindi Greenberg would probably, if told that she’d die in three hours, call her best friend in Minneapolis and her niece in Maine, walk around her house to visit each piece of art, then indulge in a large dish of ice cream with lots of hot fudge while sitting on her deck watching the birds and critters cavort. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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