“A poet is a terrorist.” If that is the case, as one of English novelist G.K. Chesterton’s characters declares in Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s adaptation of his metaphysical thriller, The Man Who Was Thursday, running from Dec. 5-21 at 539 Muze in Durham, then surely the novelist is a masochist. Who else would put themselves through the agony of placing a group of characters in a turbulent situation and hope for understanding from an audience that might be a bit disconnected with the pertinent aspects of the plot?
Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s version of Chesterton’s 1908 novel struggles valiantly to maintain the surrealistic aspects of the story of Gabriel Syme (played by Dana Marks), a police hero who cannot reveal that his poet friend Gregory Lucian (played by Tamara Kissane) is an anarchist. Through a series of misunderstandings and bumblings, Syme attempts to protect Lucian from discovery and to prevent a series of bombings that will be perpetrated by anarchists named after days of the week. The result is frequently confusing, sometimes philosophical, and often hilarious as the main characters discover that they are needlessly battling each other, as designed by the mysterious, underground character called Sunday (played by Susannah Hough).
The story follows Syme as he discovers that the anarchists are actually undercover policemen themselves, all of whom are unaware of each other. The cops challenge each other, chase each other over oceans and through the air (a hot balloon chase is particularly comical), and continue to confound and confuse each other until they finally figure out they have each been hired for the same purpose by President Sunday.
What is particularly unusual about this production is that all of the parts are played by women in drag. Each of the main characters adopts an English accent (of sorts), but their voices are not necessarily deeper and more masculine. In fact, there are times when the comedic nature of women in drag playing anarchist-poets who are really undercover-police officers actually causes the play to rise above the rather wild world Chesterton portrays, a world he personally described as full of “wild doubt and despair” as pessimists were describing the Edwardian era.
Some of the play’s actors are former students from acting programs at local universities (Duke, N.C.Central, and UNC-G), most of whom are making their Little Green Pig debuts. LGP artistic director Jay O’Berski and playwright Playwright Neal C. Bell both teach at Duke University, and Bell is also making his Little Green Pig debut.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 9th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/12/10/3449205/little-green-pig-scores-with-man.html; and Dec. 4th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Zack Smith: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-man-who-was-thursday/Event?oid=3777223.
Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern presents THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY, adapted by Neal C. Bell from the novel by G.K. Chesterton at 8 p.m. Dec. 12-14 and 19-21 at 539 Muze, 539 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, next to the Durham Central Park Farmer’s Market.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 seniors and active-duty military personnel) and $5 Student Rush Tickets.
BOX OFFICE: 800-838-3006 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/498083.
SHOW: http://littlegreenpig.com/?p=1484 and https://www.facebook.com/events/1377066019208677/.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by Nick Karner): https://vimeo.com/79404095.
PRESENTER: http://littlegreenpig.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/LittleGreenPigTheatricalConcern.
The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908 novel): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Was_Thursday (Wikipedia).
G.K. Chesterton (English writer, 1874-1936): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton (Wikipedia).
Neal C. Bell (playwright): http://theaterstudies.duke.edu/people?Gurl=&Uil=5297&subpage=profile (Duke Theater Studies bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neal_Bell (Wikipedia).
Jay O’Berski (director): http://theaterstudies.duke.edu/people?Gurl=&Uil=1728&subpage=profile (Duke Theater Studies bio).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.com/.