“This” opens today and runs through Feb. 6 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. The comedy follows the story of a group of friends dealing with life as they enter their middle-aged years. Ron May, the director of the show who also runs the non-profit Stray Cat Theatre, spoke with The State Press about the play.
SPM: What made you take on this project?
RM: I had read the show, interested in it for Stray Cat, and by the time I was done with it was like, ‘This would be a really great show for Actor’s Theatre to do.’
SPM: Why do you think it was a better fit for Actor’s Theatre than Stray Cat?
RM: If we’re dealing with peoples’ existential crisis, it’s usually people in their teens and in their 20s, and this deals with people who are in their late 30s, about to turn 40.
SPM: It sounds like the play shows a different side of relationships than what is typically portrayed. Although it’s presented as an “unromantic comedy,” it sounds like there’s a forbidden one that comes out.
RM: The major inciting incident in the play [is that] the lead character, her husband passed away a year ago and, depending on who you ask, they’ll tell you a different story of how well she’s dealing with it… They’ve all been best friends for years and years and years. They went to college together. They all moved to New York together. They stayed friends for a really long time, but then things kind of splintered off, because a year ago, the husband, who was also part of this close circle of friends, passed away… And the couple that’s still together — it’s an African-American woman and a white guy — have just had their first kid. And anytime kids get involved, if there’s a circle of friends… everybody kind of gets thrown into a crisis… So at the beginning of the play, the husband part of the couple makes a pass at the girl who has been a widow for a year, and they wind up having sex. So, yeah, forbidden for sure.
SPM: How do you think audiences will react to it?
RM: I think audiences will be very surprised by it. It’s crazy funny… Reading it, it’s easy to compare it kind of to “Seinfeld.” It’s got a real cynicism to it. There’s a lot of ironic humor in it. They’re dealing with pretty dark subjects, but they do it in a pretty funny way and there’s not a real plot… I think people will be surprised how funny it is and how relatable it is, because all of these characters consistently exhibit this kind of inadvisable behavior that everybody’s done at some point, but you get to see someone else do it instead of having to deal with it yourself.
Tickets can be purchased online at herbergertheater.org. The theater is located at 222 E. Monroe St., near the ASU Downtown campus. For more information, visit the Herberger Theater Center’s box office or call 602-252-8497.
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