At Capital Fringe this summer, surrealism is rekindled through one character’s quest into the unconscious mind in A Night In (Or the Night My Wife Left), a new dark comedy.
The ensemble devised work is produced by LIV Creations, a theatre and film production company from Northern Virginia. On the show’s website page is featured a crude cartoon of a half-naked man, wearing just a pair of boxers, black work socks, and a cape, while holding a bong. A thought bubble above him reads: But we just had sex yesterday?! Meet Manny.
Manny is getting a divorce, or so he discovers when he comes home like any other normal day to find that his wife has packed up her things and moved out, leaving only a note that reads, “I just don’t know who you are anymore.” Immediately, Manny is bombarded by phone calls from his boss, friend, and mother who just noticed the Facebook relationship status change. He finds himself giving drastically different versions of the bad news to each person and reconsiders his wife’s final words. Manny interviews, gets high with, and kidnaps each one of his personas in order to understand who he truly is.
In ancient Latin, persona means mask. In A Night In (Or the Night My Wife Left), we evolve the mask into being through puppetry. Each puppet is physically made from objects that relate to the persona it is representing. For instance, the persona that Manny has with his pothead friends is played by a puppet constructed from a bong with a long hipster beard made of twine and hemp.
Played by James Robertson, Manny is rather plain and has a nervous, awkward edge to him, “a Jason Segal type you could say,” said Roberston. “Manny takes ‘fitting in’ to a whole new level by constantly trying to fulfill others’ expectations. But, in developing the script, we found rare glimpses of Manny’s true nature. These moments, especially the ones with his wife, are what really raise the stakes in the play.”
As a devised piece, the ensemble, consisting of myself, Robertson, as well as storytellers Katie Brunberg, Jackie Reed, and Sarah Morrissey, have been developing the play since January. I have seen several astonishing and revolutionary devised pieces, but I equally have seen a lot of bad devised pieces For me, story is the most important thing and I find that those devised pieces which are bad are the ones that have a weak arc or lack action.
In most devised pieces, a director approaches the ensemble with a theme or topic, which is researched and explored through a variety of techniques. With A Night In, I broke the “rules” and approached the ensemble with a character named Manny who finds out he is getting a divorce. At our first rehearsal, I brought in the first eight pages of the script and said, ‘from here, it can go anywhere!’ Of course, a great deal of those first eight pages have now changed… but once Manny’s ultimate goal was fully realized, we wrote down our story equation and posted it to the thumbtack board in the rehearsal space, as a constant reminder. It was important to me that we didn’t stray from the path. Although that doesn’t mean that the path can’t change and that the sticky note can’t be re-written.
I’ve produced a few devised productions, but this is my first with my company LIV creations. As a theatre and film production company, A Night In features a cast both on stage and on a projector screen. We are not treating the video projections like just a technical aspect or just an element of spectacle. It does so much more than establish settings or mood. The scenes and moments on screen move the story the same way the stage does, yet one is never without the other. It’s not like you’re trading back and forth between watching a live performance and watching a film – things on stage and on screen are always happening simultaneously, but, of course, delicately. From flashbacks to dream sequences to even shots from Manny’s point of view, the screen innovatively serves as a portal into Manny’s brain, which naturally the puppets have a remote controller to.
I was always taught to treat a play like its own little planet. It was important to me that the video projections didn’t feel like a different world and that, once we had a solid structure and script in place, we always rehearsed with the video. We feature a whole other cast in the video, including actors Bethany Michel and Aaron Sulkin, but the acting style and aesthetics on screen match that which is on stage. This really is like no other show you’ve seen with projections!
Sex, violence, and possibly some brain damage, A Night In has something for every adult who has ever broken up with a long-term partner. Rude, crude, but brutally honest, this play explores that first night of being alone and the questions we hate to ask ourselves when we realize that maybe our ex-partner was right…
Every play to some degree is about a character finding him/herself, but we took that rather literally as we pulled from research in Jung and Freud, specifically in how their theories inspired the surrealism movement.
- Jul 12th 7:15 PM
- Jul 17th 7:00 PM
- Jul 21st 2:30 PM
- Jul 25th 8:30 PM
- Jul 28th 10:00 PM
at the Goethe Institute, Gallery – 812 7th Street, NW, in Washington, DC.
Purchase tickets here starting June 18th.
More information here.