Money.com’s “Best Place to Retire!” One of Outside magazine’s “Top 10 Best Places to Live!” Self magazine’s “Happiest City!” Rolling Stone’s “Freak Capitol, USA!”
It’s enough to give a small Southern town a big-city ego.
But surely there’s more to the Paris of the South than decent golf, miles of single-track, an abundance of social workers and the occasional thong-clad contender for City Council. Surely there’s a less … savory side of town? A side the posh dot-coms, glossy fashion mags and hip tabloids haven’t discovered?
Indeed there is.
And like the rosy little hamlet our Chamber of Commerce touts, Asheville’s darker side harbors a bard or two eager to sing its praises — or at least chronicle its oddities and villains. Writer (and North Carolina native) Michael Roach and his collaborators at Urban Vermin Productions have sought to do just that with their debut play, Bashville.
The show’s promoters promise an “offensive, funny comedy reflecting Asheville’s colorful social scene and” — er — “land-ownership issues.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s offensive,” counters Roach. “But apparently it is.”
His first hint that not everyone might take the material as lightly as do he and 17-year-old co-writer Elliot Blatt has been the show’s constantly changing cast.
“People got scared of the material,” Roach admits. “We lost one cast member because of upsetting one of our local cults we pick on in the play.” Cults? That sounds encouraging.
“Well, let’s just say the name of the cult in the play rhymes with the name of a real cult around town,” Roach hints. “I do not think, in any way, that we are upsetting to homosexuals.”
But, he confesses, such references are made.
“And that scared a couple of people off, too,” Roach admits. “I play a bisexual redneck, and I’m sure some people will be upset that we’re representing rednecks as bisexuals.”
Bashville’s other targets/subjects include punks, racists, trust-fund hippies (a.k.a. “Trustafarians”), vampiric girls named after flowers and weather — and that always-good-for-a-laugh crew, big landowners.
“We weren’t able to work everyone in,” Roach says apologetically, “but we tried to work in as many groups as we could. There’s already plans for a Bashville II to catch the groups we didn’t think of this time around.”
What kind of story can successfully juggle so many types of characters? Show promoters offer this synopsis:
“When a city punk named Cutter [played by Daniel Casteele] moves to Bashville, the locals and their secrets reveal themselves to the newcomer.” The locals include, among others, Mountie DoGood [Elliot Blatt]; lovely twin sisters Summer and Blossom Sunshine [Kat Raines and Beth Cobb]; and town villain Baron Von DoWrong [Tadd McDivitt] and his sidekick Captain Lackey.”
The actor originally slated to play Lackey was apparently a casualty of the play’s “offensive” nature; a replacement is being sought.
“The play is supposed to be very cartoonish,” says Roach. “I liked the idea of having a really obviously bad guy — that’s the evil Baron — who’s snagging up all the land.”
Asheville residents will, of course, be curious to know if Baron Von DoWrong is based on anyone in particular.
“He’s definitely a conglomeration of a lot of people who are buying up all the property [and] then raising the rents,” reveals Roach. “So you’ve got all these real cartoonish characters. Then Cutter — the punk — comes to town, and he can see the world for what it really is. He brings up things like, ‘Don’t you guys see this guy is a villain? He has a handlebar mustache and a cape.’
“[Cutter] comes in and wonders how everyone else can’t see what they’re doing, misrepresenting themselves,” Roach continues.
Roach, Blatt and the play’s myriad contributing writers, exposing their own anything-goes-in-Asheville proclivities, created no fewer than five endings.
“No show will be alike,” Roach promises. “Each night, we’ll do two endings, then let the audience pick a third [one] — and the ending can totally change the context of the play.”
Roach hopes that even playgoers not familiar with the “downtown scene” will still find the show funny.
“And for someone who does [know the scene], they’ll catch all kinds of jokes underneath.”
Bottom line? “I love this town,” Roach effuses. “I mean, we’re picking on it, but it’s like we’re picking on our own family.”