Middle Aged White Guys
BCTC Production Brings the Funny
By Kim Thomas
The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life’s tragedy
— Oscar Wilde
What do Cheezits, day lilies and rats all have in common? They’re all zingers in Jane Martin’s boisterous and bawdy comedy, Middle Aged White Guys, which opens November 5 at Talon Winery. Director and Bluegrass Community & Technical College drama guru, Tim X. Davis has once again put together a production that will leave audiences wishing for the TiVo option so they won’t forget the good stuff.
Prepare to go home with your cheeks hurting after you snort and giggle your way through [alleged] Kentuckian Martin’s sharp and pointed dialogue of the faulty but oh-so-eloquently-inept reasoning of a young but aging trio of brothers who have met, appropriately, in the toxic waste dump that literally and figuratively serves as the backdrop of their lives. They are there to pay their questionably sacred tribute to the woman who, before her untimely departure, both bound them together yet tore them apart … and no, it’s not their mother, it’s Roy’s dead wife, R.V., who evidently got biblical with her own version of the triune spirit by sleeping with all of them — Roy, his brother Clem and his other brother, Moon — at one time or another.
The scenes play out quickly as Clem and Moon, stumble their way into the picture and divulge a little too much information to Roy (who is somehow the Mayor) as to the positional wheres and whats of their escapades with R.V. This is where the ensemble digs in.
Most of the cast are students at BCTC. Along with Davis’ direction, the actors have the added benefit of having been coached in stage combat by Lexington’s favorite fight choreographer, Henry Layton. Layton’s and Davis turn this story of brotherly love gone wrong into a sassy, action-packed piece of sarcasm and satire.
At Monday night rehearsal, Layton was busy meticulously cleaning up various scenes. At one point, he noticed Hightower was rubbing his wrists, and told him to use the “Superman slide” (hands straight ahead) to break his falls so he wouldn’t injure himself.
Davis is “very excited to again work with Henry Layton. He is the finest stage combat instructor I’ve ever worked with —and I’ve worked with a lot of ‘em!. It saves my old bones from having to show students how to fall down!”
Zack Hightower’s return to the stage is powerful as he plays dressed-as-Abe-Lincoln straight man Roy to Jared Sloan’s Clem, who is a seriously ridiculous amalgam of Gomer Pyle and Mr. Haney from Green Acres. Sloan’s droll delivery keeps viewers in stitches, especially when Clem is questioned by Roy about whether or not the indiscretion took place “in Mama’s day lilies, was it?” Clem replies in straight-faced yodel, “Heck no, Roy, it was over in the phlox!” — and the chuckles begin to roll and build. After that, it’s nearly impossible to hear Clem utter a word without snickering.
Kevin Greer (Moon) also has his own comedic style with his strong-arm antics as he taunts the gun wielding Mona, craftily played by newcomer Rosa Paulin. Leah Dick, another student of Professor Davis, is the gorgeous and gone (but not forgotten) R.V. Moon explains how he once saw someone get eaten by rats: “They ate away at him in a circle, kinda like a corn dog!”
The sort of artistic direction that doesn’t compromise the script is a testament to what is becoming known as the Tim X. Davis stamp that Lexington theatre audiences know and trust. He explains that Talon Winery’s eagerness to provide BCTC with an affordable and picturesque venue has created new opportunities, and has enabled BCTC to add a fourth offering, a Sunday matinee of Middle Aged White Guys to the usual tally of three performances.
Playwright Martin, whose identity remains unknown “claims” to be a native of the Bluegrass. She is a prolific writer known for her topically controversial dramatic works and comedic satires.
Davis offers his view, “Jane Martin — a mysterious ‘Kentucky’ playwright (rumored to be former ATL Artistic Director John Jory) has written a number of great plays in the last 20 years. Keely and Du is what really made me a fan. I had the chance to direct a full production of this show in Grad school down at Southern Miss and it’s always been special to me. But MAWG’s is by far the funniest show she’s ever written, and I think one of the funniest shows EVER. I’ve been wanting to do it in Lexington for years (as I don’t think it’s ever been performed here, despite having its debut in Louisville at the Humana Fest) but I could never convince a ‘certain theatre’ to bite! So I decided to do it with this group of talented younguns.”
Veteran stage manager and actress Natalie Cummins (Mrs. Mannering) loves the script of Middle Aged White Guys particularly for its satirical value, “plus, it is slightly heretical, which appeals to me. My character is the dead mother to the titular white guys, who are 3 brothers. My purpose in coming back is to persuade them to do something for the greater good, which they are reluctant to do because it will be rather uncomfortable and embarrassing. I can’t say any more about the plot than that! I think Ace Weekly readers are a pretty intelligent bunch, and I think they’ll really appreciate the sly humor of this piece.”
This production of Middle Aged White Guys is dedicated to the memory of Jack Parrish, who passed away recently. Davis remembers him fondly: “Jack was a great friend. I first met him when he directed me in ART at AGL, and later I recommended him as my replacement at KSU when I came to BCTC. The last time we worked together was on Shakespeare at Equus Run’s MERRY WIVES in 07. He was an absolute force of nature in the role, and as I believe Chuck Pogue first observed, watching Jack work was like getting a master class in the craft. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer about 10 days before we opened. Director Tony Haigh had to step into the role, as Jack was in serious need of surgery. The show was fantastic (and I truly admire Tony for being able to step in on such short notice) but the fact that they never got to see Jack’s Falstaff is a true loss for Lexington theatre-goers. His passing was truly a sad day for his friends, and for all of Lexington.”
Kim Thomas is a former writer for The Thoroughbred Record, presently works for a downtown law firm, is a member of the Chancel Choir and a Commissioned Stephen Minister.