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Lying in State

a Comedy
by David C. Hyer

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Roswell Cultural Arts Center
ID# 3136

SHOWING : September 04, 2008 - September 21, 2008



Don't even think about voting in November 'til you've seen this blue, white and red hot new comedy. Can a dead guy run for Senate? Sure! Better yet, can he attend his own campaign fundraiser? Only if you can find the body! Georgia Ensemble launches its 16th season with this hilarious political comedy full of zany characters looking for love, votes, and a big purple squirrel named Mel.

Director Peter Hardy
Fred James Baskin
Edna Tess Malis Kincaid
Wally Edwin Link
Buttons Cara Mantella
Herb Bill Murphey
Harry Michael Strauss
Margo Kathleen Wattis
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


All the Average Men
by Dedalus
Monday, September 15, 2008
David C. Hyer is a playwright of whom you have probably never heard. And, if the Gods of Theatre are looking down on us (and believe me, after letting this play see the light of day, "looking down on us" is a doubly apt phrase), he will soon return to the vapid obscurity in which he no doubt feels right at home.

What raises this skunk cabbage of a play to the level of "average" is the production itself. It's handsome-looking with a nice set and terribly appropriate lighting effects. It's handsomely performed, with some of Atlanta's most talented farceurs (Tess Malis Kincaid, William S. Murphey, Cara Mantella, and Kathleen Wattis to name just half) giving it their not-to-be-underestimated best. It's handsomely directed by Essential Theatre's Peter Hardy, fresh off of two-thirds of an outstanding Essential Power Plays Festival, briskly paced and nicely laced with witty ideas and pieces of business that made the evening not completely laugh-free.

But, oh what a dismal piece of writing it is. An attempt to merge political satire with absurd farce, it fails at both. The political barbs are blunt and obvious (and already matched by real-life incidents). At one point, a character even breaks the fourth wall to ask us incredulously, "Did you know every state has its own senate?" Well, yes, I did, as does almost everyone I know. We're given the dumbest of all possible state senators (though not half as dumb as some we've seen under own golden dome) lying in state after succumbing to a freak drunken shooting incident (which is not so "freak," not so absurd, and not half as funny as the playwright seems to think it is).

The farce elements come in by the totally ludicrous device of having the most inept funeral home in the world mixing up all its clients in what is apparently a rash of "closed casket" services. To make matters worse, the classic desperation antics aren't that desperate (but the game cast almost had me believing they are), and too much of the farce is "driven" by too many of the characters being "dumber than bag of lemons." And, most egregiously, the climactic bedlam involving the president, the wrong body, and some drug-sniffing dogs (an admittedly good set-up for farce) happens off stage and is only described to us. Just what I want to see - a frenetic farcical melee talked about and not shown! So much for the Farce!

Just to be clear, you won't have a bad time at this play -- there are laughs, even if they're the kind that appeal to your baser prejudices or the kind of cheap political jokes that would never pass muster on Comedy Central (or even conservative talk radio). The barbs are explicitly non-partisan (which may be part of the problem) and seem to predate our current political climate. To be blunt, the idea of running a dead person for office as satire has been overshadowed by it actually happening (more than once). The idea of idiots in state legislatures as an idea for satire has been overshadowed by Atlanta's own First-Quarter Follies of the past few seasons. So much for the Satire!

Tess Malis Kincaid grounds the action as Edna, the deceased's ex-wife, who, in a contrived bit of plotting, promised to bury His Nibs as part of her divorce decree. That no one recognizes her because she used to be an obese stutterer is a device that never catches fire (or becomes at all believable). But she still coasts blithely through the nonsense, bringing her usual wit and intelligence to probably the only intelligent character on stage. The others are "types" we have seen too often before - the dim-bulb chorine attached to the senator, the conniving politico giving everything the best spin regardless of cost, the alcoholic brother, the pill-popping matron, the governor always looking for the camera. I didn't like any of them, and I didn't believe any of them.

This may have been a lost cause from the get-go. Farce works best when absurdities and desperate maneuverings go so far over the top as to be stratospheric. Political Satire must have a strain of credibility to land home, and an exaggerated edge to really dig in. Unfortunately, the absurdities on display here are too absurd to ground the satire, and not absurd enough to give the farce flight. The satire's edge is too close to reality for it to come across as truly exaggerated. In other words, what needs to soar is earthbound, what needs grounding is off in La-La Land, and everything is mixed together in exactly the wrong proportions.

What we have is basically a below-average play filled with too-average characters being given an above average production. The laughs are there, it's never boring, but you've forgotten the details before you even get back to your car. And, in this season when I (for one) desperately need some satire to get me through to November, that's not enough.

-- Brad Rudy (


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