Durang is troublesome. Particularly when he’s in his unhinged, absurdist mode, and his black humor is targeted on lethal critical topics.
The playwright Christopher Durang has been poking our society within the eye for many years. He’s spent his life gleefully aiming poison darts at sacred cows and important societal stressors: faith, politics, suburbia, household dysfunction, home abuse, psychological sickness and extreme use of weapons.
Particularly this week, within the wake of the varsity taking pictures in Texas, the concentrate on weapons and the loopy want to intention them at random individuals, is stunning and disturbing at greatest.
Together with his outlandish, over-the-top, ultra-eccentric characters and conditions, which hit so very near dwelling, are we purported to chortle or cry, scream or tear our hair out?
Even the play’s title is a provocation.
“Turning Off the Morning Information,” which premiered in 2018 on the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey (Durang’s home-state), is so well timed that the projection designer (Salomón Maya) at OnStage Playhouse needed to replace his stunning information pictures thrice within the final three weeks earlier than opening.
The crazy or frankly psychopathic characters break the fourth wall continuously, telling us (within the psychopath’s case), that he’s pondering of taking pictures some random individuals after which himself — possibly in a mall, or a theater.
“You’re fortunate I’m within the play, not the viewers,” says Jimmy (wild-eyed Salomón Maya), a bipolar, alcoholic sadist.
His spouse, the ditsy, polka-dot and plant-loving Polly (Carla Navarro, in delightfully daft costumes by Brad Doubtful), thinks her husband is “beautiful, however very delicate.” Delirious? Demented? In deep denial? Properly, she does acknowledge that “he has his ups and downs.”
He’s truly a harmful whackjob, and his adopted son Timmy (Jaden Guerrero) is aware of it. Guerrero, a freshman at UC San Diego, is enjoying a 13 year-old as a result of, we’re informed, the solid didn’t wish to must take care of a actual 13 12 months outdated (it’s within the textual content).
Polly, who typically, just like the bullies in school, calls Timmy Polly, is a hyperverbal dingbat.
“I want to speak,” she says, “as a result of I discover life so overwhelming.”
In the meantime, throughout the road, Clifford (Eddy Lukovic) finds the information overwhelming, and takes refuge in classical music (or typically, Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney).
His housemate, Salena (Ray-Anna Younger), the one normal-seeming, if underwritten character among the many nutball adults, isn’t his spouse. They reside collectively as a result of they’ve each skilled trauma — although his is much extra macabre and inconceivable than hers. She’s Black, so racism raises its ugly head for a second, too.
One other neighbor, Rosalind (goofy/humorous Heather Warren) is petrified of the solar (a nod to local weather change, one supposes), and the numerous basal cell carcinomas it has triggered on her face. So she wears a pillowcase over her head always. It’s a KKK-kind of counterpart to the pig-head masks Jimmy wears when he decides that, depressed about the truth that he’ll by no means be a author (he’s solely written three sentences), he takes off on a killing spree.
These grotesque people are cartoonish representations of our collective madness, our private and social fears and anxieties. They’re not as humorous as they need to be, and the present information cycle additional dampens the humor potential.
Psychological well being (or the shortage thereof) is on the coronary heart of all of those characters, Warren says in her Dramaturge’s notes, and brochures for organizations that may present assist can be found within the foyer.
Director Adam Parker (making a welcome return to theater after co-founding and helming the quirky however efficient, youth-oriented Triad Productions a decade in the past, then transferring on to different ventures) places emphasis on probably the most outrageously written characters, that are additionally probably the most Durangishly carried out (by Navarro and Warren). The others are additionally loads nuts, however not in a comical manner.
Maya’s projections of the true information hold us grounded within the horrors of our day by day actuality. The set (Kristen Flores) is a pleasingly, if not whimsically, monochromatic, geometric design that appears half sitcom, half TV studio. The laugh-track provides to that sensibility.
To some individuals, Durang’s darkish, acerbic humor is hilarious. However even in a preposterous setup, it’s exhausting to chortle on the grotesque insanity we’re compelled to confront every single day.
Nonetheless, kudos to OnStage inventive director/producer James P. Darvas for all the time taking dangers and probabilities, and all the time attempting to impress and get up his viewers to what’s occurring round them, hoping they’ll be impressed to do one thing about it.
- “Turning Off the Morning Information” runs by way of June 19 at OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Avenue in Chula Vista
- Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
- Working Time: 90 min.
- Tickets ($22-$25) are at 619-422-7787 or onstageplayhouse.org
- COVID Protocol: Masks are required contained in the theater.
Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is a long-time San Diego arts author and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and evaluations might be discovered at patlauner.com.