That’s one of the themes at work inKaren Zacarias’ The Book Club Play, 6th Street Playhouse’sseason opener running now on its newly christened Monroe Stage (formerly theirStudio Theatre) through September 15.
Part satire, part farce, and partcharacter study, it’s an odd show that mostly works once you let go of anyconcept of reality being involved.
The show’s title sums thing up prettyneatly. A group of friends and co-workers have formed a book club. The groupdynamic changes with the introduction of two variables. First, the group leaderhas arranged for their meetings to be filmed under the auspices of famed avant-gardeDanish documentarian Lars Knudsen. On top of that, one of the members hasinvited a neighbor to join them, completely skipping over their intense vettingprocess. The group may survive one alteration to their rigid world, but can itsurvive two?
Zacarias’ characters are prettystock. There’s Ana (Maureen O’Neill), the control-freak leader; Rob (Marc Assad),her milquetoast husband who never reads the books and mostly comes for thefood; Will (John Browning) Rob’s fastidious college roommate and Ana’sex-boyfriend; Jen (Heather Gibeson), Ana’s flailing-at-life friend, and Lily(Brittany Sims), Ana’s sassy co-worker and the group’s newest member.
The only character that breaks out ofthe stock mode is Alex (Eyan Dean), a professor of comparative literature whoselife has been upended by his lack of knowledge of sparkling vampires.
Director Jessica Headington had herhands full with the overabundance of themes at play here. It seemed at timesthat Zacarias didn’t know what she wanted her play to be about (it’s undergonetwo revisions since its 2009 premiere) so she wrote about everything:friendship, marriage, self-identity, race, sexuality, infidelity, careerfulfillment, group dynamics, role-playing, honesty, and truth.
The show’s most interesting momentcame in a debate over whether pop culture can be considered culture at all. Whyshouldn’t a terribly-written pulp novel that’s sold millions of copies beconsidered in the same league as Moby Dick?
Headington and her cast have fun withit and you will laugh, but I found this show about artificiality in life a bittoo artificial.
‘The BookClub Play’ runs through September 15 on the Monroe Stage at the 6th StreetPlayhouse in Santa Rosa. Thursday through Saturday evening performances are at 7:30pm;there are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm.
For moreinformation, go to 6thstreetplayhouse.com