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Wednesday, August 3,2011

Black Box-ing

Kerry Waters directs Christopher Durang’s comedy ‘Laughing Wild’

by Paul Wozniak

Suppose people had no social filters and said whatever was
on their minds however dark, cynical, or politically incorrect.
(Strangely, they already do this on Facebook.)


But “Laughing Wild” promises the poignancy and depth that
are absent from most social media newsfeeds. “Laughing Wild” is the
first mainstage Riverwalk Theatre production to be set in the more
intimate Black Box space. Director Kerry Waters says the Black Box is
perfect for the show’s unconventional structure, in which both actors
interactively monologue with the audience before interacting with each
other.


“I love black-box-type theater because you can do whatever
you want,” Waters says. “I knew I could set up the chairs if I wanted
to do this or (that). Some crazy thought would pop into my head — I’d go
‘Let’s do this.’ I love theater where you can get in people’s faces.” 


Playwright Christopher Durang’s 1998 play uses a trivial
confrontation at the supermarket as a launching pad to comment on topics
of the day, from sexual discrimination to the Chernobyl disaster.


Actors Michael Mahoney and Marni Darr Holmes — who play,
respectively, the generically named Man and Woman — say that despite the
specificity of the examples, “Laughing Wild” is still relevant to
today’s turbulent world.


As Mahoney explains, “(The Man) mentions Chernobyl, and
the way he describes it, I could just change one word to ‘Japan,’ and it
would be exactly the same thing. That goes with so many of the
different topics.” 


But the title of  “Laughing
Wild” implies a hearty helping of humor. In addition to cynical asides
throughout the two monologues, Holmes says the play becomes even more
absurd and comical in the show’s second half.


“I am embodying the aura, so to speak, of Sally Jessy
Raphael,” Holmes says. “(Man) is my first guest on my show, and he is
the Infant of Prague.” Donning the signature red frames and the ornate
robe and crown associated with their personas, Woman and Man reinterpret
their initial altercation within a shared dream.


Both Holmes and Waters say they both broke down laughing
when Mahoney unveiled his voice of the Infant during rehearsal, a vocal
characterization inspired by the mannerisms of one of Mahoney’s former
drama instructors.


“I fell off my chair, seeing this sort of large guy play this doll with this very high, squeaky voice,” Waters says.


“We all laughed so hard he had to stop. (It’s) just the shining star for the whole show, I think.” 


With its frank discussions, “Laughing Wild” may not be
appropriate for all ages. But Waters hopes that in addition to cracking
up audiences it also provokes discussion — of the face-to-face kind. 


Patrons are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to
stock the grocery shelves in the show; Riverwalk Theatre will donate
everything to a local food bank after the show’s run.


'Laughing Wild'
Riverwalk Theatre
228 Museum Drive, Lansing
Through Aug. 14
7 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
$14 adults; $12 seniors (over 55) and students; Thursday shows are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students
(517) 482-5700
www.riverwalktheatre.com

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