PlayMakers’ Dairyland Is the Cream of the Crop!

PlayMakers Repertory Company’s current production of Dairyland is a world premiere comedy by Heidi Armbruster! It’s Ray Dooley’s 100th show at PlayMakers Rep! And PRC producing artistic director Vivienne Benesch directs!

Dairyland is a delightful, endearing, and enlightening offbeat “coming-to-terms” type of comedy in which a “first generation” New Yorker finds herself drawn back to the Wisconsin dairy farm from whence she came.

The Story:

Allie is a food critic for a trendy NYC-based magazine. We meet her while she is on what could only be described as a reductio ad absurdum meaningless date in an equally absurd trendy restaurant. She and her date talk at (rather than to) each other; they incorporate the language of “wine snobbery” in their discussion of the food; and they go so far as to actually analyze their personal interaction when one asks the other about “your talking points.”

Following Allie’s unsatisfying date, the scene shifts to Allie’s editor’s apartment; and we soon learn that her editor is also her “ex.” Thereafter, it soon becomes apparent that there is friction between Allie and two other women connected with the magazine.

Thoroughly dissatisfied with her work and with her social life, Allie finds everything spinning out of control — spinning downward and reaching rock bottom when she appears on a televised talk show. Indeed, the “s*** hits the fan.” She muses, “I think cows are trying to send me a message,” and she boards a plane back to Wisconsin where she will reconnect with her father and begin the task of repairing a previously rocky relationship.

Dairyland is PlayMakers Rep mainstay Ray Dooley’s 100th production (photo by HuthPhoto)

The Actors:

As Allie, Claire Karpen skillfully registers the frustrations and anxieties of her New York self as well as the optimism, the disappointments, and the triumphs of her back-to-Wisconsin self.

Ray Dooley, a 30-year PRC veteran, doubles in the roles of Henry and Sam, shining in both. Dooley delivers on all of our expectations of “the crotchety old Midwestern farmer,” doing so in spades, imbuing the character of Allie’s father with an incredible amount of individuality and charm.

Khalil LeSaldo walks the fine line of making Declan likeable, but not admirable, as he navigates between the rocks and the hard places that he encounters as Allie’s editor and “ex.”

Dan Toot delivers a one-two punch as Allie’s date and as the TV talk show host. Both characters are delightfully over-the-top.

As Sunshine (a pregnant Age-of-Aquarius rival writer), Emily Bosco is also delightfully over-the-top. And Bosco nails two other roles: server-in-a-trendy-restaurant and office-assistant-for-a-trendy-magazine.

PlayMakers Repertory Company’s world premiere production of Dairyland stars (from left) Claire Karpen as Allie, Emily Bosco as a server, and Dan Toot as Jonathan (photo by HuthPhoto)

The Tech:

Scenic designer Narelle Sissons makes good use of the Paul Green Theatre stage, easily creating multiple locations, using sparse, yet sufficient, easily moved-in set pieces.

Projections (courtesy of designer Jared Mezzocchi) on a huge upstage screen add to the ambience of the scenes. But the screen serves an even larger function. As the plot of Allie’s story unfolds, we are sporadically treated to what might be referred to as “Dairy Farming 101.” As we learn the ins-and-outs of raising, breeding, and milking dairy cattle, we recognize parallels between Allie’s life and various aspects of the farm itself.

Costume designer Jan Chambers has clothed all nine characters appropriately for every situation in which we see them (sometimes to the point of being comical). Lighting designer Amith Chandrashaker and sound designer Lindsay Jones also deliver the quality that we have come to expect of PRC.

Dairyland stars Khalil LeSaldo as Declan and Claire Karpen as Allie (photo by HuthPhoto)

A Few Highlights (not to be missed):

A definition of the concept of “sensitivity training” offered by one of the characters.

The televised “debate” between Allie and Sunshine.

The variation of the idea of “dropping the curtain” at the end of the first act.

The feeling of “being there” when the farm scenes are enacted.

Heidi Armbruster’s Dairyland at PlayMakers Repertory Company at UNC-Chapel Hill stars Dan Toot as Todd and Claire Karpen (left) as Allie and Emily Bosco as Sunshine (photo by HuthPhoto)

The Final Word:

Attending a world premiere of a play by a nationally recognized artist is a rare experience, and we would recommend this play on that basis alone.

More than that, however, this is a show filled with laugh-out-loud comedy, delightful characterizations, touching interpersonal moments, and social statements (often made via parody). It is an eye- and ear-pleasing spectacle, and visions of hope for the future of Allie’s fellow human beings.

Attending PlayMakers Rep’s presentation of Dairyland is definitely time well spent.

Ray Dooley and Claire Karpen star as Henry and Allie in Dairyland at PRC (photo by HuthPhoto)

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 14th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by Jodie Londono:

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents DAIRYLAND, a world premiere comedy written by Heidi Armbruster and directed by Vivienne Benesch, at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22-25, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 1, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

TICKETS: $15 and up ($10 and up for students), except $15 general admission ($10 for UNC students with ID) on Community Night (Tuesday, Oct. 22nd).

BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY,, or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529),, or

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2019-20 SEASON:


PRESENTER:,,,, and

PRC BLOG (Page to Stage):

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NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.

NOTE 2: There will be an All-Access Performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22nd.

NOTE 3: There will be preshow discussion with the productions dramaturgs, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23rd, in Studio 105 of the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art.

NOTE 4: There will be FREE post-show discussions, with members of the cast and creative team, following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27th, and 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29th, performances.

NOTE 5: The Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas will sponsor a FREE post-show Mindplay psychoanalytic discussion after the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3rd, performance.


Dairyland (2019 play): (official web page).

Heidi Armbruster (playwright): (official website), (PlayMakers Rep bio), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).

Vivienne Benesch (director and PlayMakers Rep producing artistic director): (PlayMakers Rep bio), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Facebook page).


Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.