Three plays are the charm: City Circle to virtually present three original comedies in ‘Acting Out While Staying In’

The trio of one act plays, all written by local playwrights, aim to provide a fun night for viewers from the safety of their homes.

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

City Circle Theatre Company’s latest show, titled Acting Out While Staying In, aims to provide levity by not shying away from the reality of the pandemic.

Each of the three original plays, all written by local playwrights, feature COVID-19 in some capacity, allowing viewers to laugh at the more absurd aspects of the past year while safely at home.

Brian Tanner, a local playwright, said he embraced the pandemic in his play … And Quarantine Makes Three because it’s a universally relatable experience.

“I wanted it to be a comedy. I certainly didn’t want to do it in a way that was making fun of the pandemic,” Tanner said. “I think people can identify with this experience, and there’s humor to be found in it.”

The play follows a couple whose love lives have been strained by the challenges of the pandemic. In an attempt to get away from it all, they stay at a hotel where they have to deal with a clumsy bellhop.

Tanner said he loves to entertain, and COVID-19 restrictions wouldn’t stop him from doing just that. While writing the play, he worked social distancing and masks into the script. To circumvent germ spread between the actors who play the couple, a cohabitating couple were cast in the roles.

For Tanner, the biggest challenge consisted of working without an audience.

“As a performer, you like having that immediate reaction from an audience, so it was a little off-putting to not hear an audience respond to it. You’re thinking ‘Oh, is this even funny?’” he said.

Director Adeara Jean Maurice also found the lack of audience feedback a challenge but said she and the actors were able to adjust.

Maurice also had to adjust to blocking for camera angles and Zoom rehearsals. While strange at first, she said she got the hang of things quickly.

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“I think being able to adapt to different formats has been kind of nice, because we’ve been able to really focus on theater without having to take the additional time to travel to rehearsal and having to schedule around that,” Maurice said.

She found the process to be a fun one overall and felt glad she had the opportunity to return to the stage, even for a limited time. To her, she said, it didn’t feel too different than a regular theater experience.

“I think in some ways it was very therapeutic,” Maurice said. “[The script] is talking about how crazy things are with the pandemic and that there are so many people not following the rules. I think people who are frustrated with it all can have a release and a nice laugh.”

Playwright Christopher Okiishi’s show doesn’t feature the pandemic as overtly as Tanner’s, but it tackles death and how to prepare for it, using the pandemic as an inciting incident.

He said his comedy, Scandanavian Death Cleaning was inspired by an NPR podcast that discussed the practice, when the elderly or the terminally ill declutter their homes and decide who their possessions should go to after death to lessen the burden of their loved ones.

Despite the grim subject matter, the show is a comedy. The characters are loosely based on Okiishi himself and his family members, resulting in some touching moments amid the humor.

“It was more emotional than I expected it to be, working with actors playing my parents and another actor playing a mashup of myself and my brother, and then interacting on the phone with my parents, sometimes on the way to rehearsal,” he said.

Acting Out While Staying In will be available April 9-11. Tickets can be purchased on City Circle’s website.