Anna Skidis, founder of Theatre Nuevo, is known for her lauded performances in locally produced musicals including Stray Dog’s “Spring Awakening”, “The Who’s Tommy” and New Line’s “Rent” and “Hands on a Hardbody.” Her new company staged its inaugural production of “This Is Not Funny” this past week, and this devised piece is one of the most experimental plays you’re likely to see around town -- ensemble created, improvisational in tone, and originally inspired by a photograph, placing the onus squarely on the audience to engage their imaginations to discover their own interpretations.
The player created piece intertwines three stories. Beth Van Pelt stands alone by a microphone as our Poet who reads her angst-ridden works from the stage, while Sarah McKenney and Sara Sapp are two young friends at play. Steven Castelli is the clown, the silent overseer of the action, who interacts with the girls and sometimes the audience (he took my sock!) from the floor of the playing space. He periodically wheels out a box that he opens to reveal two vain newscasters portrayed by Sarah Porter and Reginald Pierre, who report increasingly grim news stories for channel 31.
Reginald Pierre (Newscaster 2), Sarah Porter (Newscaster 1),
Sara Sapp (Child B), Steven Castelli (Clown),
Sarah McKenney (Child A) and Beth Van Pelt (Poet).
Though tenuously connected, the loose thread of themes that runs through the vignettes hint at general truths and strike little chords with scenes that involve everything from balloons and sexism to butterflies in jars and true love, with all of the stories growing darker and darker in mood.
The performances are strong under the direction of Skidis, starting with Van Pelt who shares her poetry with an awkward cockiness. McKenney and Sapp embody the buoyant, fickle nature of youth and Porter and Pierre immediately resonate as typical, competitive news anchors. Castelli seems to be the one constant throughout as a quiet, innocent observer.
“This Is Not Funny” is a bold choice for Theatre Nuevo’s first production, and will challenge those who are used to more traditional theatre, but this collaborative creation is worth checking out if you’re up for an evening of something different, and an opportunity to use its wide margins to arrive at your own conclusions.
THIS IS NOT FUNNY
Directed by Anna Skidis
The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive
through August 2 | tickets: $15 in advance - $20 at the door
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm
Beth Van Pelt (Poet), Steven Castelli (Clown), Sarah McKenney (Child A), Sara Sapp (Child B), Sarah Porter (Newscaster 1) and Reginald Pierre (Newscaster 2).
Lighting and scenic design by Jeremy Brooks; assistant director and stage manager, Gabe Taylor.