The Mercury Players are presenting a pair of sophisticated one-act comedies by Elaine May and Alan Arkin in a double bill at the Mercury Theatre over two weekends starting Thursday, Sept. 17.
The plays are May’s The Way of All Fish and Arkin’s Virtual Reality.
Director Gregg Perry described both of them as “dark, modern comedies” and said “people will laugh at them a lot but there is a quirkiness to them. Think of Alan Arkin and the kind of comedies he’s been involved in his career like Catch 22 and Little Miss Sunshine. They typify the play he has written: Virtual Reality. And Elaine May, of course, was the partner to Mike Nichols; she’s a New York icon. I think they collaborated on these two because there is a certain similarity, a correspondence between the plays. They make a nice partnership,” he said.
“The New York Times described Virtual Reality as ‘Abbott and Costello meet Harold Pinter.’ That kind of gives you the idea. Both plays portray power struggles, status issues and some very familiar patterns that we see in our relationships as we exercise our influence over one another.”
Each play is short.
“It makes a full evening of theatre to have them both every night. They’re each about 50 minutes long.”
He’s excited about the casts.
“Two of the Valley’s most talented and trained actresses are in The Way of All Fish,” he said.
“Lindsay Anderson from Lake Cowichan and Elissa Barron, who was lately in As You Like It, filling in as Le Boeuf. Both of them have incredible credentials and I was delighted to be able to work with the two of them. Lindsay has a master’s in directing and a bachelor of fine arts in acting. So, right from the initial read-through, they were operating at a very high level. That’s the ladies’ play.”
The men’s play, Virtual Reality, features Michael Terides who is known for his work in Doubt and Twelve Angry Men and Perry himself.
“I get to do the Alan Arkin part. The part Michael is playing was played by Alan Arkin’s son actually,” Perry said.
What are people going to especially like about these plays besides seeing talented actors working on great material in an intimate setting, that is?
“Well, the timing is really terrific. This isn’t humour of the Neil Simon variety that counts on a play on words or a drum roll, this humour arises out of the irony of the situation, the struggles that are all too familiar to all of us. That’s why the evening is called Power Plays,” Perry explained.
Shows are presented Sept. 17-19, and 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. nightly.
Tickets are available at Ten Old Books and First Chiropractic in Duncan, from cast members or at the door.
The cost is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students for most performances, but there is a special price of $10 for everyone on opening night, Sept. 17.