The Charm of Preparedness
Since seeing Nevada Repertory Company’s The Charm of Preparedness a couple of days ago, I’ve struggled, in vain, to come up with a way to briefly sum up its story. Nevada Repertory Company describes it as a “post 9-11 comedy,” which I suppose is as close as you get. It’s not really about 9-11. It’s not really about anything. But I loved it.
When Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas wrote the script in 2006, he did so in collaboration with the students and faculty of Denison University, a small liberal arts college in Ohio. He selected the actors before the script was even written, so each of the characters is based upon the personality of a real-life Denison student, making it more character-driven than plot-driven. So in telling you the play’s basic premise, I can only describe the characters.
First there’s Tariq, played by Aukai Almeida. He’s a serious, almost emotionless pre-med student who has decided to stage a preparedness drill, like those sometimes staged by the Red Cross. The reason he gives his girlfriend, Ginger (Sarah Potts), for doing so is that he wants to ready the campus for potential terrorist attacks while enhancing his medical studies. But it’s really because he has an inappropriate crush on Greta, the charming nursing student played by Mary Katharine Orr, and he hopes it will bring them closer.
As the planning for this drill ensues, we see the remaining characters preparing themselves for it. There’s Tim (Brian K. Annis), a mediocre theater major who’s hoping his role as “chemical burn victim” will put him back on the map for school productions. Tim’s roommate is Nick (Daryl S. Newman), a moody Goth who, we soon discover, also has love to blame for his involvement in this drill. Drew (Patrick Laffoon) is only participating in the hope that he’ll earn the two credits he needs to graduate. Finally, there’s Schachie (Saori Okamoto), the asthmatic tennis buff who participates in the drill, but says almost nothing. She acts merely as a sounding board for these strange characters who are all as unprepared for their own little disasters as they are for any big ones.
Sarah Potts and Daryl S. Newman are maybe not so coincidentally both members of the national honor society for theater majors, Alpha Psi Omega. Potts’ deadpan delivery of Ginger’s ridiculous lines is impeccable; she has extraordinary comedic timing. Meanwhile, Newman’s Goth character is a sympathetic, sensitive, really funny guy who still has an edge. Nick appears in the best scene of the show, the one that gave me the biggest laugh I’ve had from local theater in a long time. It involves no lines whatsoever; just Nick, Tim and some brilliant physical comedy.
The staging is as aptly low-key as the script. It involves only some video projected onto the floor and some French music (thanks, Amelie). The scaffolding, sound and lighting equipment are all visible to the audience; one board operator even plays a small part.
Having seen the show on opening night, I know that the very minor, brief moments of awkwardness will smooth themselves out as the actors continue to grow into their characters. I’ll admit that I’m puzzled over the point of Shachie’s character—she has only one line, and not a great one at that—but maybe after you see the show, you could enlighten me with your own theories. But trust me—see the show.