The lights go out and return with purpose as Keith Paul introduces his guests to the Desultory Theatre Club and what’s coming up in the next few weeks. Then Jason Truby at the controls turns the lights off again as Dan Willey, Kelly Rybczyk and Jon Bristol (with the Bob the sheep puppet) enter the stage while I stand stage left. The lights return with opening music and then, as a radio announcer, I begin the play with a few words about the weather ending with “….and now for the sports” before Willey shuts off the radio and I step away.
Bob the Sheep’s gruff voice surprises the audience right away and gets a laugh. The fast interplay between Rybczyk (as Vivian Mooster), Bristol (as Bob) and Willey (as Binky Rudich) give Mamet’s signature writing style justice. Lana Peck stands at the stage left position as the mom to call the children (and sheep) down for a casserole lunch and the audience starts rolling. When the three leads land on Crestview they meet two pandas (Boots and Buffy) played by Peck and Nick Foreman, both puppeteers in their own right. I’m sitting off stage and can see the children in the audience are enraptured with the card playing pandas.
The play moves at fast pace as the VILLAINS arrive.
Cole Sutton portrays the enigmatic George Topax, leader of Crestview and his retainer “Hank” is played by Thomas Dietner. Both actors embody their roles with flair and imagination and when their voices carry their silly yet threatening lines, the audience laughs, still recognizing that these parties signify a legitimate threat to our heroes, especially when the executioner steps on stage, played by Abel Mercado.
The heroes flee and the way Willey, Rybczyk and Bristol pretend to run while Sutton and Dietner pretend to chase them (from the chairs in the second row on stage) makes the crowd erupt. The court jester (Keith Paul as puppeteer) gets some laughs as Sutton’s Topax becomes visibly annoyed. Before long some pandas arrive with some clever dialogue and then I return to the stage at scene five to a reporter’s theme music (choreographed and performed by Preston Parrish) with the only non-puppet prop in the show, a microphone.
The role of the reporter is the only one that breaks the fourth wall with the audience if it’s played that way so under Keith Paul’s direction, I play it as if the play’s audience is the audience of my news broadcast. Because I break the fourth wall, I am able to do two things 1) I can stand 2) I can do my part without reading the script. The role is short (four or five pages at most) and I have a monologue. I also have a secret weapon…the role is written like a news reporter and I can think like that. If I were a real reporter, I’d set the scene for my viewers, do the interviews, allow for a question and then close with a signature phrase. Thinking in that context, it was easy to memorize the lines. Any reporter “worth his salt” would report the way “Bill Kaberdie” reported. All I had to do was think like a reporter and I didn’t forget any lines. I get laughs at the parts I was expecting to. Bill Kaberide asks some silly questions and his interviewees are given good lines.
In the climax scenes, a surprise entrance of a mysterious figure played by Kurt Boucher turns the world of Crestview on it’s ear. At the close of the show, we all return to the stage, bow twice , give thanks to Jason at the controls and Keith our director and step off stage before visiting with the audience.
An actor’s reward for performing in comic theater is the audience’s laughter and in that, the cast of Revenge of the Space Pandas were well rewarded. In both nights the children and adults who attended laughed as the smart writing of David Mamet reached multiple levels of silliness. On the second night, closing night, my sister drove all the way from Massachusetts to attend and as a result, my daughter could attend and see her daddy perform as well! My friend Conrad and his daughter were in the audience the second night as my friends Sheila, Robert, Jay , and Carrie saw it the first night. It’s such a happy experience to create a performance and have family and friends experience it too.
We opened Revenge of the Space Pandas on Friday the 13th and ended our run on Saturday the 14th of June 2014. The Desultory Theatre Club will put on other theatrical productions in the future, some comedic, some dramatic but whatever format Keith chooses to take it, the venue is right for an intimate performance for an appreciative crowd.
At bedtime, just before my daughter was about to fall asleep, she laughed and said one of my lines from the play. I had received the actor’s reward, a true laugh from my audience, and a wonderful father’s day present that I will always remember.