is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Funny Is as Funny Does for Middle Aged White Guys

Funny Is as Funny Does for Middle Aged White Guys:

BCTC Production Delivers the Funny

by Kim Thomas

The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life’s tragedy. – Oscar Wilde

What do Cheezits, day lilies and rats all have in common? They all add just the right element to some of the best zingers in Jane Martin's boisterous and bawdy comedy, Middle Aged White Guys, which opens tomorrow night, November 5 at Talon Winery. Director and Bluegrass Community & Technical College drama guru, Tim X. Davis has once again perfectly assembled the players in this show that barrels its way through a script so full of hilarious lines, audiences will be instinctively be longing for a TiVo option so they won't forget the good stuff.

And plenty of good stuff there is, as the script is replete with punchlines that come in rapid succession. Prepare to go home with your cheeks hurting after you snort and giggle your way through [alleged] Kentuckian Martin's sharp and pointed dialog of the faulty but oh-so-eloquently-inept reasoning of a young but aging trio of brothers who have met, appropriately, in the toxic waste dump that literally and figuratively serves as the backdrop of their lives. They are there to pay their questionably sacred tribute to the woman who, before her untimely departure, both bound them together yet tore them apart...and no, it's not their mother, it's Roy's dead wife, R.V., who evidently got biblical with her own version of the triune spirit by sleeping with all of them -- Roy, his brother Clem and his other brother, Moon -- at one time or another.

"Comedy keeps the heart sweet." – Mark Twain
The scenes play out quickly as Clem and Moon, stumble their way into the picture and divulge a little too much information to Roy (who is somehow the Mayor) as to the positional wheres and whats of their escapades with R.V. This is where the ensemble digs in and uses every comical device possible to make it a real treat to sit back and enjoy.

(rehearsal photographs courtesy of Thomas Eisenhauer Photography)

 Most of the cast are students at BCTC and seem more than happy to return to the stage with Davis at the helm. Along with Davis' direction, the actors have the added benefit of having been coached in stage combat by Lexington's favorite fight choreographer, Henry Layton. Layton's and Davis' combined talents turn this story of brotherly love gone wrong into a sassy, action-packed piece of sarcasm and satire. When photographer pal Tom Eisenhauer and I arrived at rehearsal on Monday night, Layton was busy meticulously cleaning up various scenes. Layton has the ability to fuse the physicality of the action with the integrity of the script for optimal viewing enjoyment, always considering the players’ wellbeing. At one point, he noticed Hightower was rubbing his wrists, and told him to use the “Superman slide” (hands straight ahead) to break his falls so he wouldn’t injure himself.
Davis is “very excited to again work with Henry Layton. He is the finest stage combat instructor I've ever worked with (and I've worked with a lot of 'em!) and he continues to inspire both my students AND me. It's a privilege to have him working alongside us. And it saves my old bones from having to show students how to fall down!”

Zack Hightower's return to the stage is powerful as he plays dressed-as-Abe-Lincoln straight man Roy to Jared Sloan's Clem, who is a seriously ridiculous amalgam of Gomer Pyle and Mr. Haney from Green Acres. Sloan's droll delivery keeps viewers in stitches, especially when Clem is questioned by Roy about whether or not the indiscretion took place “in Mama's day lilies, was it?” Clem replies in straight-faced yodel-speak, "Heck no, Roy, it was over in the phlox!" -- and the chuckles begin to roll and build. After that, it's nearly impossible to hear Clem utter a word without snickering (especially the bit about the Cheezits, which you will just have to discover for yourself. It cannot be given its due justice here in written word, you must hear Sloan's amusing voice, he slays in this show).
The giggles continue with the appearance of Moon, played by Kevin Greer. Greer also has his own comedic style and from the moment his character enters the stage, he too begins to reel in the laughs with his strong-arm antics as he taunts the gun wielding Mona, craftily played by newcomer Rosa Paulin. Leah Dick, another student of Professor Davis, has some great moments too as the gorgeous and gone (but not forgotten) R.V. My favorite line of Moon’s is when he explains how he once saw someone get eaten by rats: “They ate away at him in a circle, kinda like a corn dog!”

Tim X. Davis scores another winner.

The sort of artistic direction that doesn't compromise the script is a testament to what is becoming known as the Tim X. Davis stamp that Lexington theatre audiences know and trust. Davis' devotion to his students as a mentor shines through; and even when it comes to material that has never been performed in Lexington before, the casts and crews love him. Davis’ explains that Talon Winery's eagerness to provide BCTC with an affordable and picturesque venue has created new opportunities, and has enabled BCTC to add a fourth offering, a Sunday matinee of Middle Aged White Guys to the usual tally of three performances.

Playwright Martin, whose identity remains unknown but who "claims" to be at native of the Bluegrass has been called "America's best known unknown playwright." She is a prolific writer known for her topically controversial dramatic works and comedic satires. Davis offers his view, “Jane Martin - a mysterious "Kentucky" playwright (rumored to be former ATL Artistic Director John Jory) has written a number of great plays in the last 20 years. I first came to know "her" through the play Talking With... a series of female monologues that was very popular in the late 80's. But her play Keely and Du is what really made me a fan. I had the chance to direct a full production of this show in Grad school down at Southern Miss and it's always been special to me. But MAWG's is by far the funniest show she's ever written, and I think one of the funniest shows EVER. I've been wanting to do it in Lexington for years (as I don't think it's ever been performed here, despite having its debut in Louisville at the Humana Fest) but I could never convince a 'certain theatre' to bite!  So I decided to do it with this group of talented younguns.”

In fact, veteran stage manager and actress Natalie Cummins (Mrs. Mannering) loves the script of Middle Aged White Guys particularly for its satirical value, "plus, it is slightly heretical, which appeals to me. My character is the dead mother to the titular white guys, who are 3 brothers. My purpose in coming back is to persuade them to do something for the greater good, which they are reluctant to do because it will be rather uncomfortable and embarrassing. I can't say any more about the plot than that! I think Ace Weekly readers are a pretty intelligent bunch, and I think they'll really appreciate the sly humor of this piece.”

Like all the others, Cummins is happy to be working again with Davis. “Working with Tim again is a blast. This is only the second time I've worked with him as a cast member; for the other million productions I've been his stage manager. While he expects hard work and focus in rehearsal, he also makes rehearsal a lot of fun. The man is an encyclopedia of pop culture, and we love to riff on a variety of topics. He's also just a joy to be around when he's making discoveries. He gets so excited that you can't help but be excited, too. Every actor is treated with the same amount of importance and respect, and you can tell that he's giving the character with 5 pages as much thought as the character who's on stage for the whole show.”

This production of Middle Aged White Guys is dedicated to the memory of Jack Parrish. Davis remembers him fondly: Jack was a great friend. I first met him when he directed me in ART at AGL, and later I recommended him as my replacement at KSU when I came to BCTC. The last time we worked together was on Shakespeare at Equus Run's MERRY WIVES in 07. Zack, Kevin and I were in the show together (it's always neat to work with your students in that regard) and we had the pleasure of rehearsing many of our scenes with Jack. He was an absolute force of nature in the role, and as I believe Chuck Pogue first observed, watching Jack work was like getting a master class in the craft. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer about 10 days before we opened. Director Tony Haigh had to step into the role, as Jack was in serious need of surgery. The show was fantastic (and I truly admire Tony for being able to step in on such short notice) but the fact that they never got to see Jack's Falstaff is a true loss for Lexington theatre-goers. His passing was truly a sad day for his friends, and for all of Lexington.”

Opportunity keeps knocking at BCTC: Davis is excited about the future of the BCTC curriculum. “Some other things we're involved in:

  • · Dave Clemmons, who runs Dave Clemmons casting in NYC is coming to give our students an intensive auditions workshop on Nov 6th. Jeremy Kisling and the good folks at the LCT are letting us use one of their spaces, and we're inviting not only our students but UK, Transylvania, and other area theatre students. This is coming at a great time, as the Kentucky Theatre Association audition screenings (which I coordinate) are the following weekend, so the timing is great for the students to share in Dave's excellent knowledge of the auditions process.” Here's a snippet of his bio: "Dave Clemmons is the founder/owner of Dave Clemmons Casting, currently casting the new Frank Wildhorn musical Wonderland, the new national tour of the musical version of 101 Dalmatians (director Jerry Zaks, music by Dennis DeYoung) and the national tour of The Wizard of Oz. They are also in developmental casting for Grumpy Old Men the musical and the musical version of The Witches of Eastwick. Dave Clemmons Casting has cast Broadway shows including Ring of Fire, In My Life, The Boy From Oz, Dracula, The Civil War, Brooklyn, Cinderella starring Erath Kit and Jamie Lynn Sigler; Off-Broadway shows including Bare, Bat Boy, Altar Boyz, Zanna Don't!, the 2000 revival of Godspell and the National Tours of Cinderella, Evita, Millie, Cats, Fosse, Jekyll & Hyde, Chicago, Joseph and Saturday Night Fever, and Moving Out. Dave Clemmons is also casting director and artistic associate for Casa Manana Theatre in Ft. Worth. He began his career as a performer in Broadway roles in Les Miserables (Valjean), The Civil War, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Jekyll and Hyde and Whistle Down the Wind."

  • We will again be working with the Keeneland Concours Gala in July. Our students (and some faculty!) will again be roaming the themed party in costume and entertaining the revelers.

Here's the long and short of you need to know, if you go:

BCTC’s Fall Production of Middle Aged White Guys by Jane Martin

November 5th, 6th and 7th at 8:00 pm and Nov 8th at 2:00 pm.

The show centers around three brothers who assemble at a garbage dump to toast the memory of the late, great, R.V., wife to one and lover to the others. Unfortunately, the deceased woman doesn’t want to stay dead and shows up to prepare the men for Judgment.

Meeting in one of this country's finer landfills, three middle-aged white guys discover they've got one last chance to salvage their slice of American culture. But salvation can be painfully funny when God gets really angry. By airing America's dirty laundry, this hilarious satire probes the most sensitive place--what it means to be a member in the white guy club.


Roy: Zack Hightower

Clem: Jared Sloan

Moon: Kevin Greer

R.V.: Leah Dick

Mona: Rosa Paulin

King: Alex Koehl

Mrs. Mannering: Natalie Cummins

Director: Tim X. Davis

Ticket: Students- $7, General admission- $12, VIP Tables- $120

(tables are limited and early reservations are recommended.)

Pre-ticket purchases highly recommended, and all tickets sales at the door are by cash and check only!

*VIP tables include one bottle of wine per table of 8 and a complementary ticket per person to the upcoming BCTC spring production. VIP tables must be reserved by calling Talon Winery 859-971-3214.

**This show contains adult language and adult situations and is intended for mature audiences.**


Who exactly is Jane Martin? Actor and director Rick St. Peter’s AGL blog from 2006 reveals his opinion. “It is a mystery that has confounded the theatre community for over two decades. Who is Jane Martin? She has produced over ten full length plays, six one-acts, and numerous shorts. She has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and won the American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award twice. Yet, she has not made one public appearance. There are no interviews. No pictures. No sightings. Nothing. She has been called "America's best known unknown playwright." In her absence, retired Actors Theatre of Louisville artistic director Jon Jory has accepted her awards and served as her spokesman. It is a relationship that has dogged him since Jane Martin's hit Talking With... premiered at his theater's Humana Festival in 1981. Countless theatrical sleuths have tried to connect the dots, and they all seem to lead to Jory himself.”

"I'm not going to talk about that," is Jory's usual response when asked about the subject. He has been adamant in his denial despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence that suggests the contrary.

Kim Thomas is a former writer for The Thoroughbred Record,
presently works for a downtown law firm, is a member of the Chancel Choir and a Commissioned Stephen Minister.


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