Colorado is a long way from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan — the “U.P.,” for short. But when it comes to humor, Coloradans aren’t all that far away from Yoopers. Let’s face it — four crusty hunters, some Native American moonshine and a load of flatulence can make even the most prim of the populace giggle. And giggle is what you’ll do when the Evergreen Players open “Escanaba in da Moonlight” on July 10.
“Escanaba” was written by movie actor and playwright Jeff Daniels in the early 1990s. A Michigan native, Daniels claims that the events which take place at the Soady deer camp are based on real-life experiences. This may be a tall tale, but what hunter hasn’t stretched the truth around the campfire a time or two? That’s just how “Escanaba” begins.
Alberty Soady (played by Rand Moritzky) informs the audience that he is going to tell them a tale of the 1989 deer season — a strange season during which such traditions as pasties (a beef and turnip sandwich of sorts), Euchre, and whiskey suddenly take strange turns.
The strangeness revolves around Rueben Soady (Robert Michael Sanders), Albert’s oldest son, who at age 45 has still never bagged a buck. If Rueben does not kill a deer this year, by the official legend book of the North, he will be the oldest buckless Yooper.
Reuben breaks with tradition, taking advice from his Native American wife, Wolf Moon Dance (Gina Scalzi), who offers him spiritual remedies involving a drink made with moose testicles and porcupine urine to protect him from evil spirits. Rueben is joined on this hunting crusade by his younger brother Remnar (Len Matheo) and their eccentric friend Jimmy “The Jimmer” Negamanee (Sean Maslow) from Menominee. What ensues is a raucous weekend replete with hallucinations, UFO sightings and the incomprehensible (yet hilarious) ramblings of the The Jimmer.
As with any good spoof, particularly one involving drunken hunters, the show is packed with physical comedy. The Players have recruited a master of physical comedy to direct, Meridith Crosley. Crosley is an award-winning actor and teacher who has worked with The Second City and the American Conservatory Theatre. She has made a name for herself in Evergreen teaching the Players’ annual improvisation classes.
“Several of the cast members have taken my improv classes, so I’ve seen them in action before,” says Crosley. “They are an incredibly funny group of actors. It’s been fun to spend so much time with them in class and now have the opportunity to translate those improvisations skills to a stage show.”
That’s not to say that the production is improvised, but Crosley stresses that experimentation in rehearsal often leads to a more genuine final product.
“I like to have them play in rehearsal. It’s a very kinesthetic process that defines my directing style,” says Crosley. “Most importantly, the Players needed a director who was good with comedy and good handling the male bonding aspects of the show. I always say that I can fart with the best of them, so we should be in good shape.”
“Escanaba in Da Moonlight”
Presented by the Evergreen Players July 10-26
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive
For more information or to reserve tickets, call 303-674-4934 or visit www.evergreenplayers.org.