There's a profound self-indulgence among new theater companies. Coming together to create art that really isn't any different from any other art, those involved nonetheless see themselves as markedly different. Excited by the notion of taking on something that seems impossible, they reason that they are destined to make an impact no other company could match. In truth, most startup theater companies don't have what it takes to succeed. The irony of the situation, though, is that it takes a few tries at starting a company to learn this lesson.
Now, in truth, some companies succeed. And we as a community are better off for their struggle to survive. In addition to the self-indulgence, there's an urgency and resourcefulness among the startups: having nothing to lose, they have everything to gain. Some of the best shows I've seen or worked on have been in drafty café basements, in theaters whose seats double as packing materials, with casts and crews who know they might never be able to leave that office day job to walk the boards—but they're never going to stop trying.
I hope, for all of our sakes, that Lunacy Stageworks is one of the new companies that makes it. Their inaugural show, Jane Martin's Jack and Jill, follows a couple's relationship through courtship, marriage, and divorce. Over the years, Jack (Glenn McCumber) and Jill (Heather Lundy Kahl) struggle with their own notions of companionship and solitude, self-perception and understanding of each other, and how we can make room in our hearts for others when there's barely room for ourselves. McCumber, Kahl, and director Dale Nakagawa do masterful work with this show. The actors fully inhabit their characters and bring an intimacy and eloquence to the stage that more established theaters can only dream of. McCumber, especially, delivers heart-shattering moments of truth with merely the nod of his chin or a shift in his posture.
On the night I attended, the audience barely outnumbered the cast and crew, and the stage lighting failed in the middle of the first act. Even under shadowy house lights to a nearly empty house, this show was remarkable. There are two weeks left in their run. Go see it, and be able to say you were there when they started out. TEMPLE LENTZ