Friday, December 4, 2009

Faulkner "Man Day"

"Man Day -- the Psuedo-Musical" opened at Faulkner University's Dinner Theatre this week. Written by students Chris Kelly, Daniel Monplaisir, and Michael Morrow -- three of Faulkner's manistay actors -- this "work in progress" shows a lot of potential, much of which is realized in the two-hour production directed by Jason Clark South.

The premise is simple: the three students [they play themselves] are challenged by Mr. South [a clever impersonation by Bibb Herrod] to write, direct, and produce a play as a requisite for passing a course. Their fictionalized personae have rarely attended class and are at a complete loss as to how to proceed. They have been too caught up in celebrating "Man Day" -- any day they set aside to luxuriate in "being men" by excluding women, watching mind-numbing television shows, weight-lifting, and sleeping. The tests of their manhood and the challenges awaiting them in being responsible for producing the play become the premises for the play itself.

With no clue as to how to begin, and allowing any idea full consideration, they ultimately determine to write a "sci-fi-western-mystery-horror-action-comedy-Christmas play" -- and they actually manage to do it. Of course, much of it makes little sense other than to showcase the 22-member cast's abilities as well as the authors' sometimes self-indulgent wit.

Kelly, Monplaisir, and Morrow do have considerable talent which negates their on-stage character depictions. And they have the maturity to allow self-mockery as they target their own "real" foibles for the audience to view. This is not just an exercise in narcissism, though there is a lot of that too: witness the weight lifting scene with one character an out-of-shape contrast to the other two.

They know their way around the theatrical experience. For example, an audition scene parades many eccentricities of inexperienced actors' audition behavior and material, and exposes an assortment of recognizable character types with a good-natured critical focus.

And they have surrounded themselves with student actors with their own abilities: Rebekah Goldman's deadpan Goth named Mary Rose is both a laugh and a threat; Chase McMichen's personification of the forgetful Derrick who must also prove his manhood is a continual puzzle; Josh Saylor and Jason Peregoy as the seemingly inept sword-fighters create very effective combat that is both entertaining and seemingly dangerous; Peregoy is credited as the fight choreographer -- excellent work here.

There is so much in this script -- character types, popular culture references, linguistic oddities, genre analysis -- as well as an attempt to comment on relationships and identity themes in largely comedic ways, that the action often moves very slowly and without much purpose other than to draw attention to itself. It would benefit from judicious editing and a faster pace; but, as this is a "work in progress" much can be forgiven.

Faulkner University's talent pool is large, and this show -- limitations and all -- gives proof to it.