Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Self - Unseeing

There’s a new theater in town and if its debut production, “The Self-Unseeing,” is any indication, we are in for some exciting shows in the future. The Happy Hour Theatre was founded by area natives Shenandoah Kehoe and Christi van Eyken in August of 2018. Kehoe grew up in Sacramento and studied theater at Sacramento State. Van Eyken is a Davis resident and an alum of the Davis High School drama program.

The Happy Hour Theatre offers opportunities for theater artists to undertake new challenges and expand their ability to make compelling theater.

The company has no permanent home at the moment, but this first production is held at the Black Box Theater in West Sacramento and the Palms Playhouse in Winters. In the immediate future, the company will perform at various venues, without a single home base.

In addition to using local actors and directors, the company plans to produce original works by community members as well as published pieces in order to give local playwrights a place to bring their words to life. Incidental music for each of the five plays presented in this one-hour production is written by local musicians The Bad Barnacles, Mark Butterworth, Band of Coyotes, Odd Moniker, Lucinda H. Cone and Taeko McCarroll.

The debut production consists of five short plays not original to Happy Hour Theatre and which have been performed at least once before. The entire production takes just one hour, and in the West Sacramento location, there is a happy hour in the café downstairs after the show.

“Don’t Bleed on Me,” by Andy A.A. Rassler, directed by Michael Sicilia, features Christine Nicholson and Luther Hanson as white socks in a washing machine, appalled when a colored athletic sock is tossed into the machine, concerned about the proximity of the bright colors and what they might do to the snowy white socks. It is a very funny bit, with not-so-subtle implications about discrimination. The ultimate solution to the problem is very clever — if only it could happen in real life.

“What Are You Going to Be?” written by Steven Korbar and directed by Acme alum Betsy Raymond, pits parents against a stubborn teenager determined to have her own way in the choice of a Halloween costume. Kathleen Poe and John Ewing are marvelous, trying to explain to daughter Natalie Evans why it is not a good idea to go trick-or-treating in a burqa. The surprise ending is wonderful.

In “Mendacity, or the Herd of Elephants in the Room” by Carlos Murillo and directed by Andrew Fridae, Mauricio (Doug Williams) has developed a very strange physical condition to the consternation of wife (Lisa Derthick) and son (Matthew Hurley). This is a very funny 10 minutes. While not in the least political, it will have you thinking of the current administration. The best line in the evening came from this play, where Mauricio describes his pain as “imagine passing a kidney stone during natural childbirth without medication.”

The final two plays are “Sold!” by Donna Hoke, directed by Lucinda Hitchcock Cone, a familiar name to Sacramento audiences, featuring Christi van Eyken, Chris Scarberry and Kathleen Poe, and “Paper Thin” by Lindsay Price, directed by Vernon F. Lewis, featuring Matthew Canty, Emily Vernon, Chris Scarberry and Shenandoah Kehoe. Each of them is unique and enjoyable.

Happy Hour Theatre is off to a terrific start. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next.

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