2005-06-02

Play D.D.

Some mad comic skills will be converging on the stage at Athens Community Theater next week. Don't worry if you think your attention span is short and that you'd rather watch television than see a cultural event: This performance is like television, pleasantly devoid of high culture, too (though if you want you can enjoy the cultural implications and commentary and whatnot). "Play D. D." is a series of 30 skits that appear across five different television channels that a monkey with a short attention span is flipping through. And that's not all! There are also commercials plus -- and this is a lot of fun -- six improv segments for which you as an audience member will have the chance to provide ideas. The writers of this thing are interested in how Neil Postman has claimed that the average shot on television lasts for only three and a half seconds, so they are taking advantage of our short attention spans.

Who is the mastermind behind this upcoming performance? I tried to find out when I met the actors for their first rehearsal inside the Athens Community Theater. They tried to prevent me from finding out, deflecting all credit for various details to other members or to the whole group. In fact, as I watched them discuss the scripts and brainstorm over changes and details, I saw continuous cooperation among them that is rare between intimate lovers, much less among six people who love the spotlight. The Town & Gown Players website, however, accuses Katie Benfield of directing this second stage performance, and it also credits Anton Chekhov as a writer, to which I pose the question, WTF?

The players all have day jobs and a number of experiences that have really brought them together. They have worked together in recent Town & Gown Player's mainstage productions, including "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," "I Hate Hamlet," and "The Suitors."

Brooke Hatfield works for a Madison County newspaper. She says that, yes, she is descended from the Hatfields of that little Hatfield and McCoy spat a few years back. Brooke injects a lot of spontaneous hilarity as well as a lot of energy into their skits. She is also known for her sarcasm and her writing skills

Joe Cerniglia is a waiter and a bartender on top of writing poetry and acting. Joe has the comic personality -- sometimes appropriately subtle or deadpan -- that captures the message being sent and holds the scenes together. He is known as their Joey Tribiani look-alike.

Katie Benfield is a speech and language pathologist for St. Mary's Health Care System. In a flash she goes from being businesslike when laying out her ideas or instructing stage combat to becoming the funniest and most interesting characters. She has shared her improv techniques gained from her theater experience in Colorado.

Will Riley is a customer service director. Will is versatile and his characters are always, always funny but somehow believable since you think you must know people like them, and, boy, oh boy, what fun he is making of them! He claims to be anal-retentive.

Julia Wilson is a social worker. Will says she is "best described as wholesome with an edge." Edgy indeed, when you least expect it, too. I didn't get a chance to talk to her long.

Joe Costello teaches children and mans a crisis hotline. His size and his beard are striking, and he is incredibly animated on the stage. You'll be scared when you see him tackle his colleagues in one skit. He appeared as an extra in the film "Napoleon Dynamite" (his lines were cut).

This is the first performance by these silly, sassy six as a new group. They haven't even named their troupe, though they briefly considered the proposals of "Shiny Object All-Stars" and "The Meat and Potatoes of Town & Gown." They are interested in putting on more shows together, but Cerniglia plans to move to New York in a few months with plans for acting on a professional basis. All six contributed to the writing of this play.

There will be five performances, and the troupe encourages you to attend the shows at eleven p.m. because the theater on Grady Avenue is located close to many of Athens' bars. The skits will be saucy and use foul langugage, so don't plan on bringing children or Brooke's parents.

What: "Play D. D.," comedy skits and improv
Who: Six monkeys
When: June 10 (8 and 11 p.m.), June 11 (8 and 11 p.m.), and June 12 (2 p.m.)
Where: Athens Community Theater, 136 Grady Avenue, Athens, GA (behind the Taylor-Grady House)
How much: $5 for all shows, no reservations required
For more information: Call (706) 208-8696