Thursday, December 11, 2008

Superior comedy — Play elevates insanity to heroic proportions

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Pajamas as daytime attire. Underwear as outerwear. Shoes either untied, on the wrong feet or missing altogether. A proclivity toward random outbursts, talking backward and vacant stares.

As Charlie, one of the characters in “Insane With Power,” says, this group is a few Fruit Loops short of a nutritious breakfast.

In the play, put on by Triumvirate Theatre, a reporter visits an insane asylum to interview four patients who think they’re superheroes.

“It made me laugh. I always loved superhero movies and comics, so I liked the whole premise,” said Angie Nelson, the show’s director.

It’s hard to say which is loopier — the patients for their delusions of grandeur, or the super weird personas they say they have.

Charlie, played by Adam Meyers, is Speed Freak, with the ability to run backward so fast he can’t wear shoes, lest they disintegrate from friction.

His power came thanks to an abduction by alien beavers, which also left him with a taste for wood products.

There’s Mental, played by Karlene Meyers. Ever since eating a radioactive Pop Tart, she can read thoughts (but apparently never any intelligent ones), and shares them loudly and at random.

“The armadillos have pink parachutes,” she yells.

Jamie Nelson plays Dim Bulb. After the fateful day he stuck his finger in a light socket, he can turn lights off without using a switch, by clapping, coughing and various other bodily functions.

Brainstorm, played by Chris Jenness, can control the weather through a series of dance moves, though he’s reluctant to perform them since he also seems to believe people are watching him. An entire audience, in fact.

“You people are sick!” he yells.

Terri Burdick plays a doctor caring for her wards, and Sally Cassano is the reporter sent to do a story on the supposed superheroes, but eventually starts wondering if there isn’t some power in crazy after all.

The actors have to demonstrate willpower, at least, to stay in character through Mental’s outbursts, Speed Freak’s beaver noises, Brainstorm’s funk review and Dim Bulb’s moments of brownout.

“The hardest part is not laughing on stage,” Adam Meyers said.

Angie Nelson said the script calls for a lot of the antics and idiosyncrasies the characters display, but they do have some leeway to embellish.

“They all came up with their own costumes,” she said. “It’s been pretty fun watching them develop their own characters.”

Capes and underwear over long johns or PJs is the wardrobe staple of choice. For at least one cast member, skivvies on stage weren’t an odd occurrence.

Jamie Nelson recently played the part of Randall McMurphy in Kenai Performers’ production of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” One scene called for him in boxer shorts. For Dim Bulb he’s decked out in black workout wear embellished with tighty whities so crisp they nearly glow in the stage light.

“Last time was boxers, this time briefs. I don’t know what’s coming next,” he said.
Humility takes a backseat to hilarity in the show so the actors can milk their characters’ quirks for all the laughs they’re worth. That’s challenging, in some respects, but the cast said it’s also fun to let loose with the premise.

“I kind of always wanted to play a dimwit,” Nelson said.

“ I always wanted to be a superhero,” Adam Meyers said. “It’s every boy’s dream. Now I get to play one on stage.”

The show is written by Scott Haan, who contacted Angie Nelson when he heard Triumvirate was going to perform his show. It’s the first time a community theater group has staged the play, and Haan was so excited he wanted to fly to Alaska from Indiana to watch it.

Plane fares kept him grounded, so he’s settling for a DVD of a Triumvirate performance. Nelson said Haan and the original cast of the play are planning a party where they all get together to watch the show.

Audiences on the Central Kenai Peninsula can watch it live this weekend and next, Dec. 12, 13, 19 and 20, at 7 p.m. at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Tickets are $10.

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