Birthdays and bath time at The Mill in third One Act Showcase

Run of The Mill Theater Production will host its third ‘One Act Showcase’ this weekend at The Mill.

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Birthdays and bath time at The Mill in third One Act Showcase

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Philip Runia, Arts Reporter

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Theater has the ability to bring people out of their lives and into joyous or tumultuous ones of the characters onstage, often through humor or satire. At 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday at The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., two plays will be performed for audiences to laugh at, cry to, and clap for.

Typically, performances and direction of plays from the canon can be modified, diverted, and twisted into whichever form modern audiences will appreciate most. Most people wouldn’t get bent out of shape if Hamlet was adapted for a different audience (see: The Lion King). However, with plays from newer playwrights, the lines are more drawn. This rings true for director Akia Nyrie Smith’s production of Scott Mullen’s Piñata.

“We can push boundaries … but with new playwrights, there’s a preciousness to it,” Smith said. “They are trusting me to do a good production of it… I didn’t want to take it any further than what the intention of the script was; you want to keep the integrity of it.”

The traditional play features four women at a children’s birthday party, discussing parenting, success, and trying to fit in. The focus will be on the characters: how they interact with each other, how they perceive each other, and how they and their perceptions change. Rehearsals began in early February, giving Smith time to cultivate character with her actors.

“The characterizations of the characters in the [text] becomes less important,” Smith said. “I’ll have my characters make a backstory for themselves. Why are they here, where are they going?”

Smith plans to surprise the audience with the cadence of the production. The themes are nothing people haven’t seen before: the realization of how easy it is to write someone off, and then be wrong about them. It’s like cracking open a layer of Russian Doll to find someone different inside, Smith said.

Character also takes an important role in director Ash Pierce’s production of Ryan M. Bultrowicz’s The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He is Very Upset with You All. Rehearsals started for Pierce in early February to get the two-member cast into character.

“With such a small cast, it’s mostly focusing on character work and building trust between actors,” Pierce said.

The show captures the troubles of a married couple strapped with medical debt. The two go to great lengths to take care of each other, despite their trials. While the situation is pressing, the comedic tone takes a bit of the sting away, as well as a bit of audience participation. It won’t be volunteers on stage, but a conversation between the lead and the audience to keep them engaged through over 20 pages of monologue.

“Most of the show is one actor on stage monologuing,” Pierce said. “It’s weird and goofy for one man to be telling his bathtime story, but it’s a lot of material for one person to sit down and process in one night.”

Given its name, the production will indeed feature a bathtub. The Mill has no on-stage plumbing, so the actors will not bathe literally, but a real tub will be the focal point of the stage. The absurdity of the tub in this production is a metaphor for escaping the stress of real life.

Piñata and The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He is Very Upset with You All will both serve as comedic relief for audiences as a $10 double-feature. The show begins at 7 p.m Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Audience members must be at least 19 years old.

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