What’s so funny about the Reign of Terror anyway?
Is a family’s descent into madness, addiction and abuse really a laughing matter?
And do disaffected young men normally burst into song whilst marching off to war, drugs and dead-end relationships?
Fair questions all. But playwrights have long known that humor and music are sometimes needed to help audiences pick their way through difficult emotional minefields.
Thus three upcoming Gainesville plays will invite viewers to step outside their own comfort zones and into dark comedies that attempt to put the human experience into different lights.
First up is The Hippodrome’s production of “The Revolutionists,” which is running from April 29 to May 15. It is Lauren Gunderson’s satirical take on four women caught up in the bloody aftermath of the French Revolution.
One woman murders the infamous Marat in his bathtub. One is a Haitian rebel with her own ideas of independence. The third is a feminist playwright trying to make it in a male-dominated field. And, finally, the doomed Marie Antionette.
“It’s funny until it isn’t,” says Hippodrome artistic director Stephanie Lynge. “It’s about four women having the courage to stand up for what they believe in, right or wrong.”
“The Revolutionists” is finally making its way to the Hippodrome stage after a long Covid delay. “We tried to do it last January but were interrupted by a false positive covid test,” Lynge said. “We love this play, and everybody was determined to get it onto the stage.
“The Reign Of Terror was not a good time to be a woman,” she continued. “These characters are based on real women who went through it, but it doesn’t pretend to be a history lesson. It is an exploration of their spirit and their courage.”
For showing times and ticket prices see the Hippodrome’s web page, at www.thehipp.org.
On May 13, the Acrosstown Repertory Theater will premier Tracy Lett’s comedy-drama “August: Osage County.” Running through May 29, the play traces the collapse of an Oklahoma family after the father disappears, leaving a pill-popping mother and three alienated sisters to try to pick up the pieces.
“August” is a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that was adapted into a critically acclaimed movie. And ART director Jahnathan Nixon, whose previous directorial experience has mostly been in children’s theater, admitted “I was a bit scared about taking it on. What if I didn’t do it justice?”
As for using humor to delve into a family tragedy, Nixon said “it deals with so many heavy topics that it is almost impossible to get through without the relief of laughter.”
Because of the weighty subject matter, Nixon said the ART enlisted a mental health and wellness consultant to work with the cast and crew. “If you want to experience an immersive play about sexual assault, mental health and addiction, and if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone, please indulge us.”
Also on May 13, the Gainesville Community Playhouse will premier “American Idiot,” which will run through June 12th.
It is an adaptation of Green Day’s 2004 Grammy-winning electric rock album of the same name.
“American Idiot” follows the experiences of three suburban young men, Johnny, Will and Tunny, who follow their own uneasy paths after realizing that their generation has been cut out of the American Dream.
Director Dan Christophy says “American Idiot” is a marked departure from the sort of large ensemble Broadway musical that is standard fare at GCP.
“This is a homage to disillusioned youth and what they perceive as the media basically feeding them things about war and politics that may not be true,” he said.
Though released nearly 20 years ago, Christophy adds it’s “exactly a perfect time to be doing it, given the wars and the administrations we’re dealing with again.”
“This is about a lost generation, and right now every 20-year-old is part of a lost generation,” he said. “The message still hits home because it keeps coming around and repeating itself over and over.”
For tickets prices and showtimes see GCP’s web page at www.gcplayhouse.org.
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