Thursday, March 01, 2018

Five Courses, with love

From left, some guy with Megan McQueen and Brandon Brown
For the last couple of months I have been back to my home environment, rehearsing and performing a play. Aside from some Theatre Dojo appearances it had been a year since my last production.

My friend Megan and I had wanted to perform together for a long time and we thought, despite the demands of my reporting job, a three-hander with Brandon Brown, another well-known performer in Las Cruces, would be manageable.

Megan is also the sort of friend who likes to challenge herself and her peers, and so she proposed a show that is 99.9% sung, which is something I had never attempted before. So I said yes, because friendship. I figured in the company of these two it would turn out all right somehow.

The show is Five Course Love, a suite of musical vignettes by Gregg Coffin, each on the theme of love and set in a different type of restaurant: American western, Italian-American, some sort of German cafe, a Mexican cantina, and a 50s-style diner. Three actors play over a dozen characters; quick costume changes; lots of shenanigans, all while singing in different musical styles.

The show has little to say on love, eroticism, or friendship, but it delivers enjoyable music and good material for comedic actors. The three of us had distinct but overlapping strengths that worked together harmoniously - many people asked if we would please perform more shows together.

A lot of the chemistry simply has to do with enjoying each other. Brandon and Megan have been friends for quite a long time. I'm comparatively new to town, but Megan and I have grown close and the three of us fit in together nicely. They are two of the better comedic actors I have worked with on any stage, and both musicians. Brandon is a bit like Peter Sellers, going off by himself and coming back with bizarre characters that take on a life of their own; Megan and I bounced off each other. She mastered the songs quickly. I kept up.

We performed in El Paso one weekend in January, gave a show in Socorro, and then finished with a few performances at the Alma d'Arte charter high school in Las Cruces which brilliantly partnered with the school's culinary arts program to present a five-course meal, each matched with the style of a scene in the show.

We had a second cast, younger actors who served as crew and understudies, and they gave a few performances of their own - bursting outward with hilarious performances of their own. We worked with a three-piece band that nailed the music the first time they rehearsed together. We played on a set designed and built by a few additional members of Megan's theatre-family, including her husband.

Once upon a time, I worked in professional theatres with much more funding than this production had, and full-time staff, yet I don't recall many shows coming together so pleasantly and efficiently.

I also know that I haven't laughed very much in the past 10 months, apart from working with these folks. I'm not sure which I needed more: a theatre project, trying something new, or interaction with friends.

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