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A surrealistic horror — well, only sort of horror — anthology pieced together by Lansing’s Ixion Ensemble is arriving at the Robin Theatre Saturday. “Fears & Phobias” is a collaborative piece featuring seven original short plays that were chosen from 80 submissions.
Co-directors Nick Lemmer and Heath Sartorius took inspiration from several themes, but each revolves around the common anxieties felt in modern life. From family planning to politics, Lemmer and Sartorius’ production aims to both amuse and discomfort.
“Fears & Phobias” comprises seven unique scripts: “Killing Trudy,” “Legs,” “Code,” “Donald Trump Is …,” “October,” “Family Planning” and “Bunker Bound.”
But despite the blunt title, Lemmer isn’t quick to classify “Fears & Phobias” as typical horror, or even horror at all.
“None of them are really too scary.
Overall, the show is a bit of a dramatic comedy. There's a mix of a few in there and we try to structure around that,” Lemmer said. “There's a few plays that will make you laugh, because you recognize the fear, but you can admit that it's sort of a silly one.”
One of the short plays, “Donald Trump is a Racist Xenophobic Sexist Ignorant Tiny Handed Tangerine Faced Narcissist Who Has No Business Being President and Should Be Impeached,” sounds heavy-handed, but it plays out like a reverse satire of outpouring hatred toward President Trump.
“It's a satire, basically. It's this meta piece about two government agents who are trying to lure people,” Lemmer said. “They’re looking for anyone who's speaking out against the government. These agents are tricking people into seeing this supposedly subversive play, but then it's them kind of being rounded up.”
According to Lemmer, even without the divisive nature of the Trump Administration, there’s a tense social environment that is perfect for a show that touches upon fears and anxieties.
“The election hadn't happened but there was still a feeling in the country and even around town that there was a growing divide and people were unsure of what was really going to happen in the future,” he said. “I think there's definitely a feeling of fear happening in this country right now.”
Lemmer and Sartorius were tasked with creating a cohesive theme and message, which can often be difficult when working with seven different scripts from a variety of authors. But Lemmer thinks they pulled it off.
“I think the challenge Keith and I faced was just finding the right structure for all the plays. They all have the same theme, but they don't necessarily have the same tone,” Lemmer said. “You need to find that balance of 'okay, this one's kind of funny so we don't want to put a really super serious one back to back with it.' You need to find ways to sort of ease the audience through the rise of the plays as a whole.”
'Fears & Phobias' Opening Night $15
Saturday, May 12 8 p.m. Robin Theatre 1105 S. Washington Avenue www.therobintheatre.com