OpenStage Theatre presents The Book of Liz at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from Feb. 21 to March 21, with a Thursday performance at 7:30 p.m. March 19 and two Sunday matinées at 2 p.m. on March 8 and March 15. Performances are in the Lincoln Center Mini Theater, 417 W. Magnolia St. in Fort Collins. A free performance for students and educators, funded by The Thornton Family Fund, will be presented on Tuesday, February 19, at 7:30 p.m.
Press notes state, "Take two wildly successful cult satirists, add a dash of religion and The Wizard of Oz and, if you're lucky, you'll get OpenStage Theatre's production of The Book of Liz.
Writing under the name The Talent Family, author David Sedaris ("Me Talk Pretty One Day," "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" and umpteen monologues on NPR Radio's This American Life) and sister Amy Sedaris (star of television cult comedy Strangers With Candy and author of "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence") turned playwrights to bring their skewed view to this coming-of-middle-age comedy.
Liz has a fairly straight-forward plot: Sister Elizabeth Donderstock (Tracy Salter) is a cheese ball-making member of an Amish-like community known as the Squeamish who gets pushed down and pushed around by the Reverend Tollhouse (Timothy Ackerman) and new arrival Brother Nathaniel Brightbee (Zachary Brown). Eventually she can't take the pressure any more and runs off to the big bad outside world".
Ackerman, Brown and Salter also take on additional multiple roles, and OpenStage veteran Brenna A. Freestone adds to the confusion of characters, playing six different roles ranging from the incessant kibitzer Sister Constance Butterworth to a Ukrainian woman dressed as Mr. Peanut.
"Liz has much the same structure as The Wizard of Oz," said OpenStage Director Sydney Parks. "She feels unappreciated at home and decides to run away. She keeps meeting these wacky characters who all look like people she knows at home and she finally ends up realizing everything she needed is at home. She just needed to discover who she is."
"The basic framework is a fairly simple story about a woman finding herself and finding her self esteem," said Parks. "But Liz is anything but your usual, run-of-the-mill comedy. The beautiful thing about the Sedaris siblings is they can do anything with characters, which means I, as director, can do anything. Their entirely inappropriate, awkward and irreverent sense of humor allows me to do just about anything. I can have an actor walk on without pants and offer no explanation. We've been laughing our heads off at rehearsal. I just hope everyone thinks it's as hysterical as I do."
It's hard not to laugh at a play that includes a woman who sweats thunderstorms, a reverend who prays by offering a detailed list of compliments to God; and Ukrainians who speak English with Cockney accents because they learned the language from a chimney sweep.
To make reservations for the student/educator performance, contact OpenStage Theatre at (970) 484-5237.
Individual ticket prices are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more. Matinée tickets are $13 per person. Tickets for FAB Friday, sponsored by Boulder Beer, on February 27, are $12 and include a free beer at intermission.
Tickets are available from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, through the Lincoln Center Box Office at (970) 221-6730 and online at www.LCTIX.com.
A play guide containing information on the play, playwright and the historical context of The Book of Liz is available online at www.openstage.com. Click on The Book of Liz on the home page and then on the Play Guide icon at the top of the show page.
Audiences are invited to meet the cast of The Book of Liz following every performance.
Major funding for The Book of Liz is provided by Fort Collins Real Estate and KUNC-fm, with additional funding from The Armstrong Hotel.
OpenStage Theatre is a not-for-profit organization that relies heavily on the support of sponsors and patrons who help make each season a success. With assistance from corporations, foundations and the general public, OpenStage has been able to maintain high quality productions for 36 years. For information on sponsorship and charitable gifts and on how you can support OpenStage Theatre, call 970-484-5237.
For more information, visit OpenStage's website at www.openstage.com or call 970-484-5237. Founded in 1973, OpenStage Theatre is a recipient of the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts and a member of Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for not-for-profit professional theatres.