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I’m sure “Mr. Rogers: American Terminator” -- which Black Box Theatre will continue streaming through Sunday, March 28 -- has a deeper message, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is.
Perhaps the playwright within the play says it best: “That’s why we go to the theatre: To escape the stubborn facts of reality.”
Aha! There’s the deeper meaning: Watch this truly funny play and let William Missouri Downs (the real playwright) deliver laugh-out-loud craziness and a brief respite from the insanity of so-called real life.
Join director Ceil Herman and cast members Monte H. Wright (Mr. Rogers), Gino Tafoya and Nancy Clein Tafoya (George and Martha Drake), Ed Montes (Brooklyn Gray), Rachel Thomas Chappell (Jojo Porchnik), Debbie Jo Felix (woman from the audience and Google’s vice president for product development), Autumn Gieb (voices of Siri and Alexa, and singer) and Becca Taulbee (herself) in this irreverent plunge into the mundane, the bizarre and the completely original.
Downs is surely poking a bit of fun at himself, theatre, movies and television. How else do you explain a playwright with a state in his name writing about a playwright with a city in his?
“Let’s not use any device that has the word smart in it,” Downs’ playwright Gray tells Jojo during their one-night stand. Gray has no cell phone or Facebook account, and he uses a typewriter. But he is hoist on his petard, as George and Martha’s You Tube video trashing his play gets a million views and closes the show.
“The actors did an awful lot of talking,” Martha says, asking Gray in the video, “Did you know your play tonight lasted 81 minutes? That’s like an hour and 21 minutes!”
“George and Martha aren’t very nice people, are they?” Mr. Rogers tells his audience. “The modern tragic world is full of not-very-nice people. Time to change scenes.”
Later, Gray will hold George and Martha at gunpoint, and when George asks Siri how to escape from a hostage situation, she says, “Okay. Here’s what I found for hospitals for crustaceans.”
Mix in a few adult themes, a little Charles Dickens, a bit of musical theatre, a nuclear holocaust and a “meaningful conversation” about dead Uncle Bob, the lake and divorce and you have this delightfully entertaining virtual glimpse at nothing and everything.
“It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive,” as Mr. Rogers says. “It’s such a happy feeling. Oh, to hell with it.”
Gold stars all around: Wright is a charming Mr. Rogers with just a bit of an edge: “Let’s all share a Prozac.”; The Tafoyas capture the intimate, drunken insanity of George and Martha to a tee; Montes makes you cheer for much battered but ultimately triumphant playwright; Thomas Chappell sparkles as the endlessly multi-tasking Jojo: “If you’re not doing at least three things at once, you’re not living.”; Felix is a priceless scene interrupter and tech giant exec as she introduces Google Theatre for “anxiety-filled, multi-tasking Instagram addicts who demand instant gratification.” (It’s theatre “that allows you to kind of pay attention …); and Gieb steals the show with her brilliant Siri.
There is no charge to watch “Mr. Rogers: American Terminator.” And you should!
Email email@example.com to obtain the link to the show.