Blue Plate Special’s latest multicourse extravaganza is a tasty collection of comedic sketches that combines the famous (several of brilliant satirist Christopher Durang’s works) with the found (Winston Weather’s “Chevrolet Garden,” the story of a family who create a garden out of junk cars), crowned with the usual outlandish finale.
Having sworn not to divulge the particulars of the show’s closing number (a musical), I will report that, during a recent rehearsal, I was compelled at one point to duck a troupe member’s marauding parasol.
But Asheville’s premier comedy ensemble has always claimed variety and intrigue as hallmarks (not to mention critical acclaim: Last March, they represented North Carolina at the Southeast Theatre Conference in Birmingham, Ala.). And though they won’t grace Bele Chere this July, as they did in ’97 (troupe organizers are openly miffed about this fact), their debut performance at the intimate Rhino Theatre should be an exciting compensation.
One question remains, though: Where is the Rhino Theatre?
Well, to see Blue Plate’s latest assembly of hilarious tidbits — collectively called Dinner with Diana — the audience will enter the shrouded-in-mystery theater at a location on Market Street, across from the Police Department.
“Anyone who’s been in that area has discovered The Rhino, and that’s what they look for,” explains troupe member Deborah Austin. “There will be tracks to follow that will lead people to the theater.” In case you haven’t witnessed this particular beast, troupe member Andrew Reed elaborates: “[It’s] that tubular, bent-iron, bright-orange rhinoceros in the courtyard on Market Street.”
Other interactive performance groups have actors mingling with the audience, Reed notes, but Blue Plate Special will make unique use of the Rhino Theatre’s space by requiring the audience to sit onstage.
Beyond that, troupe coordinator and actor Katie Kremer promises, “Everything in the show is typical [Blue Plate Special], in that the sets are minimal, and we challenge the audience to use its imagination.”
The 15-skit performance will also star veteran Blue Platers Catherine Ball, Dianne Dicus, Diana Tockes, Rob Miller, Sara Sutton and Keith Yeatman, plus newcomer Erika Laibson. Besides the Durang and Weather pieces, scheduled skits include “Coffee, Beworded Infidel,” by former Asheville writer Jane LaJoie; vaudeville staples “Niagara Falls” and “Joe the Bartender”; and two original pieces penned by Blue Plate actor/writer Nurazim.
One of the latter pieces, “Lament,” is the show’s lone serious work (a Blue Plate tradition Kremer calls the “zinger”), which was inspired by Nurazim’s experiences as a counselor. The other Nurazim work is a strangely promising (or promisingly strange) solo piece — though, when asked to describe the sketch, the playwright was as oblique as all Blue Platers seem to be when pressed for details about their carefully seasoned delicacies.
“The monologue is a soliloquy of the inner workings of my mind,” he reports. “I took narcissism to the extreme, and had all the developmental stages of a relationship with myself. It ends tragically, as many relationships do.
“Hopefully, we’ll get back together sometime,” concludes Nurazim dramatically.