You See, There Was This Salt Shaker in a Grecian Pot, and…

This afternoon, we took our daughter (nsshere) and eight of her friends, together with ellipticcurve, otaku_tetsuko, kuni_izumi and corronerbob to see Dirk, the United States premier of the play based on the novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

For those unfamilar with the story, this play is about, ummm. You see, there’s this detective, Dirk Gently, who never really finds lost cats. No, that’s not it. There’s this Professor of Chronology, Reg who has a horse in his bathroom. No, that’s not it. You see, there’s Dirk’s former roommate, Richard, who climbed into his girlfriends apartment while her brother was being murdered… No, that’s not it. You see, there were these aliens… Oh, never mind. Read the book. Not that it will help you make sense of the plot, but it’s a good read anyway.

I know the plot sounds odd, but think of it like Lost or Heroes: there are all these pieces that don’t make sense until everything gets put together at the end. Even the salt shaker gets explained. You find the answer to everything, except for the horse in the bathroom.

Given a plot like this, it take a remarkable and talented production team to present a coherent play. Luckily, the playwrites found such a team in the Road Theatre Company. The play did a number of novel techniques, most notable of which was an electronic projected background, changed during the show, with which the characters interacted. They would open windows on the background, and even walk into the background. It was like a live movie at points, and it is something I have never seen done before. Through the talents of the writing and the acting, this program made sense of a story that is normally quite difficult to follow. The actors even noted that Douglas Adams himself liked this adaptation of this work.

The cast itself was great, and included (* indicates Actors’ Equity members): Scot Burklin* as Dirk, Dennis Gersten* as Michael Wenton-Weakes/Perkins, Carl J. Johnson as Professor Regius “Reg” Chronotis, Ambre Low* as Janice/Sarah/Lady Magna/Housekeeper, Tripp Picknell as Richard MacDuff, Heather Dara Williams as Susan (a UCD grad, for you Davis-ites), Daniel R. Vasquez as Gordon Way, and James K. Ward as Police Inspector Gilks. On the technical side, the projection was written by Arvin Ethan David and James Goss, and directed by Jeff Griffith. It was producted by Amy Buffington, Helen Harwell, and Julie Quinn. Film Producer was Tye Beeby; the Stage Manager and Multimedia Director was Matt Kaiser. Desma Murphy did the sets, Luke Moyer did the lights, Dave B. Marling did the sound, Lee Osteen helped with the sound and did the webpage, Caryn Drake did the costumes, Jeff Marsh composed the music. Lastly, in a credit you rarely see, Anaitte Vaccaro was the Digital Scenographer.

It is really difficult to single out particular cast members, for this was a talented ensemble. Many of them are road theatre regulars, any many were involved in Road Theatre’s recently acclaimed production of Bunbury. They were also really nice people offstage as well as on. How do I know this? Let me explain.

A while back, my daughter indicated she wanted a theatre party. I posted this on my journal, attempting to decide between The Marvelous Wonderettes and Dirk. The concensus was for Dirk, cemented by the email I received from their producer, Helen Harwell. It seems my journal posting had generated a lot of hits for their website, and did they have a deal for us. She arranged group rates, as well as a Q&A session with the cast and crew after the play.

When we got to the theatre with our appetizers, she whisked them away from us. She had a specially roped off section in the first two rows for us (this is only a 42-seat theatre). At the end of the play, when normally they would project the credits, they instead posted birthday wishes for nsshere, and the cast, crew, and audience sang her happy birthday. We then had a lovely Q&A, and I think the crew was surprised by the level of intellegent questions that came from this group of 12 year olds… plus the few fangeeks in the audience. We later went downstairs to snack, and the crew came down, and we had some delightful discussions with them. Everyone truly enjoyed themselves. My public thanks to Helen Harwell and the cast and crew of Dirk: You are a talented bunch, and we will keep our eye on the Road Theatre Company for other productions of interest. Those in the Los Angeles area: go see Dirk if you can… it is excellent.

Here’s the remainder of the theatre schedule for 2006: A Light in the Piazza, 12/3 @ 2pm; Santaland Diaries/Seasons Greetings, 12/23 @ 8pm …plus I’m still working on tickets for 13 (12/30). I should also note that nsshere will be in a school production of “An Evening of Silverstein” on December 7th and 8th–if you are interested, let me know.