July 26, 2007

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Potty humor
Urinetown pokes fun at musicals and more
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

For some reason, Peacock Players artistic director Kieth Weirich is worried that Urinetown might be a hard sell.

“There’s actually a line in the script that says nobody would ever buy a ticket to see a show like this,” stage manager Matt Giggey acknowledged. “If you ask me there’s never such a thing as too much potty humor,” he said.

The satire features a futuristic society with a water shortage so severe that people have to pay to pee. A monopoly is profiting from controlling toilet access until a hero stages a revolution. The evil CEO’s daughter falls for the rebel.

“It [has] a great combination of sharp, satirical wit and pee-pee jokes,” director Tim L’Ecuyer said.

Urinetown is written in the neo-Brechtian style of theater which involves “constantly letting the audience know they are watching a show,” Giggey said. It’s meant to force the viewer to analyze the plot, the characters and themselves rather than get lost in a story.

Musicians will be on stage instead of behind the curtain. Characters address the audience. One “blurts out the ending” during the first act, L’Ecuyer said. You don’t feel for the characters because you’re kept “arm’s lengths away from their emotions,” Giggey said.

Urinetown is about oppression and standing up for your rights, themes most people can identify with, L’Ecuyer said. What Giggey, 14, has taken from it is that “the world is full of extremes and too much of a good thing can lead to a horrible result.”

“It’s one of those plays I think appeals to the ages of the kids we have in it,” he said. Young Company is a select group of teens, aged 14 through 18, who work on Peacock’s main summer shows and help with summer camp.

Urinetown was scheduled to open on Broadway, Sept. 11, 2001, but was postponed. It won three Tony awards in 2002. Creators Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis “didn’t write it with a lot of commercial concerns in mind,” L’Ecuyer said. It has a “disgusting title” and pokes fun at musical theater, which “could potentially alienate the one audience that would have been loyal to it.” Yet because of these things, “it has a “great feeling of freedom to it,” he said. He’s directed the show before, in Stoneham, Mass.

None of the characters know they are in a comedy, so it’s vital that the actors take their characters seriously. “The least funny thing in the world to watch is an actor standing on stage trying to be funny,” L’Ecuyer said.

On the other hand, stories the actors have made up to develop their characters have become “relatively ridiculous,” L’Ecuyer said. One has decided his character doesn’t speak but makes Tazmanian Devil noises. A girl decided that her character had fallen into a pool of toxic waste, “but it didn’t affect her mental capacity because she was already an idiot,” L’Ecuyer said.

“My biggest concern is whether the show is funny or not, and I think it’s hilarious,” said Giggey, who has worked on about 14 Peacock plays.

Jacob Sussman and Greg Tucker of Merrimack, Chelsea de Lacy of Hollis and Caitlin Donohue of Nashua in are cast in lead roles. Weirich appears as the evil CEO.


Potty power
Urinetown, by Peacock Players Young Company, Friday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 4, at 2 and 5 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 5, at 2 p.m. at 14 Court St. Theatre, Nashua. Tickets $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. 886-7000 or peacockplayers.org.