You don’t have to like beer to enjoy Beertown, devised by dog & pony dc and playing May 12-15 and 19-22 in Raleigh Little Theatre’s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre. So, come on down!
You don’t have like town meetings or rituals and pageantry. You don’t have to like discussions about history and our perception of it or how memories are formed and morphed. But you will enjoy and appreciate all of these.
When you come to Beertown, you become a resident of the actual town; and you become immersed in its culture and its values. You learn its history, you become part of its present, and you will be instrumental in the formation of its future.
The play Beertown is a town meeting. It is the 20th quinquennial time-capsule celebration. Every five years, the town holds these meetings at which they open their time capsule, contemplate its contents, and vote on proposed additions. However, in order to add an artifact, another artifact must be removed. This also requires a vote. And who votes? The audience votes — the citizens of Beertown.
As each artifact in the time capsule is contemplated, we are treated to a skit that shows its importance in the history and the definition of the town. As each new artifact is proposed, we are presented with a well-reasoned explanation of its importance. After all, the artifact must have value — historic, emotional, and artistic — and it must be proven to be “Too Important Not to Be Included.”
Then there is a debate. Citizens raise their hands, the mayor calls on them, and they offer their opinions on the proposals. Even though we were convinced that some citizens are “plants,” we proved that this is, indeed, true audience interaction by participating ourselves.
The show begins the moment you walk into the lobby. You are greeted and directed to a table where you get your nametag. Next, you are handed a program (not for the play but for the actual town’s celebration). When you enter the theater, you become part of a dessert potluck, so bring a dessert, and bring your sweet tooth!
Then the meeting is called to order. The script is so well-written and so well-performed that we are seamlessly (and delightfully) brought up-to-speed with respect to who we are and why we are at this meeting.
We learn that the city was founded on the banks of the Thakiwaki River in 1865 by Rhys Bramblethorpe and Aloysius P. Thompson, and an entertaining skit tells us how and why they chose this spot. Their B&T Brewery was the town’s lifeblood until it closed after over 100 years, and it continues to be a defining aspect of the town. In fact, for the opening-night performance at RLT, the time capsule included a laminated copy of B&T’s original recipe and a stack of the pink slips that were handed out when the brewery closed. (Rumor has it that the contents change with every performance, though.)
By the end of the evening, we felt that we had become thoroughly informed about this town’s history and identity. And the show is not just entertaining and informative; it is also thought provoking. As we discuss the importance of the artifacts, certain contemporary issues are touched on. And as Beertown contemplates its values and its self-definition, we are encouraged to consider our own.
The cast is a superb ensemble that includes:
- Wyckham Avery as Mayor Megan Soch.
- Cheryl Edson as Archivist Joann Ryals.
- Greg Guiliano as Quinquennial Ombudsman Edwin McFarlan.
- Rudy Hidding as State Representative Lawrence Pickel-Cooper.
- Aliana Ramos as Karine.
- Tosin Olufolabi as MJ (Michael Soch, Jr.), the mayor’s daughter.
- Jon Reynolds as newsman Arthur Whiting.
- Justin Scranton as Dave.
Suggestion: if possible, sit near a seat that is “reserved.” We had the good fortune to find ourselves sitting beside “Dave” and were afforded with an extra layer of interaction.
Raleigh Little Theatre bills the show as “devised by dog & pony dc,” and it is directed by Rachel Grossman. The show is performed with an intermission during which the dessert treats are once-again available and performers mingle with the audience, engaging in chit-chat.
All performances are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available. Plus, the 3 p.m. Sunday, May 15th, performance will be audio described for those with visual disabilities.
Raleigh Brewing Company has produced a commemorative beer for this event, and samples were made available after the performance. The Department of Picky-Picky felt it would be nice if patrons could purchase a glass of that commemorative beer during intermission and enjoy it during the second half of the show.
Beertown definitely has the Pam-and-Kurt seal of approval.
SECOND OPINION: May 9th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article76540807.html and April 29th video preview by Robert Willett: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article74661627.html; May 4th Durham, NC Indy Week preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-audience-must-act-in-beertown-a-theatrical-experiment-in-civil-society/Content?oid=5028668; and March 16th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview with director Rachel Grossman, conducted by Adam Hochberg for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/beertown-en-route-north-carolina.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents BEERTOWN, devised by dog & pony dc, at 8 p.m. May 12-14, 3 p.m. May 15, 8 p.m. May 19-21, and 3 p.m. May 22 in the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($18 students and seniors 62+), except all seats $27 ($20 students and seniors 62+) on Thursday.
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or http://raleighlittletheatre.org/tickets/buy.html.
SHOW: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/15-16/beertown.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/981473558608116/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://vimeo.com/92538150 and https://vimeo.com/92464396.
RLT‘s 2015-16 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/15-16/index.html.
PRESENTER: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
NOTE 1: On its website RLT writes, “Every performance begins with a dessert potluck; please bring a dessert to share!”
NOTE 2: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
NOTE 3: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 3 p.m. Sunday, May 15th, performance.
Beertown Takes America (2014 Off-Broadway ensemble-based devised theater piece): https://dogandponydc.com/ourwork/beertown-takes-america/ (official web page).
dog & pony dc (Washington, DC ensemble of artists, founded in 2008): https://dogandponydc.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/dandpdc/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/dogandponydc (Twitter page), and https://vimeo.com/dogandponydc (Vimeo page).
Rachel Grossman (director and co-founder and the ensemble director of dog & pony dc): https://abigeyedfish.com/ (official website), https://dogandponydc.com/ensemble/rachel-grossman/ (dog & pony dc bio), https://www.facebook.com/rachellyngrossman (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/rgindc (Twitter 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.