Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Park and Lake Hits All the Sweet Spots

What if I were to tell you... 

Graphic by Ten Thousand Things

...That there is a show penned by a local female playwright that is set entirely in a car wash, features a highly eclectic spectrum of characters, and it's totally fabulous?

I would be describing Park and Lake, the terrific new play on offer from perennial favorite Ten Thousand Things. The show's concept is relatively simple: an immigrant car wash owner receives an offer he can't refuse when a major corporation offers to buy his property. He plans to accept, but the employees who depend on his employment will be completely left behind. The motley crew refuses to accept their fate and bands together to make every effort to buy the car wash themselves and transform it into an inclusive, economically responsible space that takes better care of them and the whole community. There are two possible endings - this is a choose-your-own-adventure story, so each audience sees a different show depending on the choice - so I can't tell you how it turns out, but suffice it to say I really enjoyed the ending at the production that I saw, and it gave me a lot of hope for the future to see the whole room get on board with it.

The cast was involved in creating their characters and it's clear that they really love what they collaboratively developed. There is something in the water at Ten Thousand Things that brings out the full charisma of each performer, and it was truly a delight to watch this cast "click." This starts with Kimberly Richardson as the delicious Jack, an understated, kind soul who is most affected by the possible closing of the Park and Lake car wash. George Keller is saucy and inspiring as the assistant manager Lolly, and it's easy to imagine her leading a protest. Karen Wiese-Thompson is hilarious as Pony Boy and brings a poignant perspective to what could have been a stereotypically butch role. Pogi Sumangil sets the stage as car wash owner Manny, and his guidance expertly leads the show. Luverne Seifert brings his best cultish axe-murderer persona to the role of Dale Selby and Thomasina Petrus swans through as the musician Teela. Stephen Cartmell is absolutely hilarious as Greeken, the resident octopus interpreter (don't ask; just watch the show and you'll know what I'm talking about), and H. Adam Harris expertly provides the show's intellectual foundation as J, the car wash world's biggest James Baldwin fan.

There are lots of detail-oriented production decisions that really elevate Park and Lake, starting with the awesome musical accompaniment provided by Theo Langason. Langason expertly weaves a bevy of sound effects throughout the show that animate the story and provide an extra, delightful touch of whimsy. The clever costumes from Trevor Bowen and props from Nancy Waldoch paint a surprisingly full picture of the world of the car wash, and it's a joy to see the many creative ways the cast engages with their work.

Park and Lake is really successful because it provides the best of what comedy can offer: a hilarious, inventive set of performances tied to real-life issues. Park and Lake doesn't shy away from addressing tough problems like addiction, poverty, exploitation of workers, immigration, capitalist expansion and abusive relationships, but it is able to honestly relate those stories with a smile and a laugh. The light touch removes the fear the audience might otherwise have in directly addressing these issues, and it's a really successful experiment in getting people to practice participating in devising solutions to such major problems. As usual, Park and Lake features excellent performances from the Ten Thousand Things acting crew, and it's sure to delight any audience. There is only one more week to attend this so make sure to click here to get tickets - they are selling fast!

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