Every two years when Manteca City Council elections roll around the arts somehow become a cornerstone issue.
Everybody wants a performing arts center. Everybody wants to secure a place where concerts and performances, plays and musicals will have a permanent home.
But until that happens, you’ve always got places like Modesto’s Prospect Theater Project – an intimate performance space on K Street that presents some of the best theater in the world on a regular basis.
Having been there once before for a comedy show last New Year’s Eve – Chris Teicheira, Taylor Evans and Anthony Krayenhagen were hilarious – I knew that I wanted to go back and see what exactly the space would look like when set-up for a production run.
Checking their calendar, a play with an interesting title – Beer for Breakfast – just happened to be opening this weekend, and while I couldn’t make it out Friday night like I wanted you, Saturday night was very much in the cards.
So, I bought a ticket. And it was the best money that I have spent in a long time.
Director James Kusy took Sean Grennan’s words and brought them to life before my very eyes – using a single set and only four characters to tell an intricate, complex story that touches on issues of masculinity, friendship, aging, infidelity and integrity while delivering laughs that kept the entire room in stitches.
What makes this play unique is the space in which it is performed – the set is constructed literally just feet from the front row of the audience, and the cast members come within inches of those seated in the front row as they cover every inch of available ground in their presentation.
In short, Beer for Breakfast is a play about three friends rapidly approaching the twilight of their lives that are hoping that a lost weekend at a cabin in the woods will somehow recapture some of the youthful spirit that corporate America and lifetimes raising children has drained from them.
Nick Zagone plays T.J., an advertising executive going through a divorce that still hasn’t had his chauvinistic ways catch up with him. Mark, played by Michael Barba, is an out-of-work newspaper writer that still hasn’t found the motivation to write the book he’s always been talking about, and David Narbona plays Richard, a successful pillar of the community that is dealing with the impact of a debilitating stroke.
We never get to meet Adrian, the fourth friend whose cabin they’re staying in, because he keeps ducking their calls.
But we do get to meet Jessie, played by Angi Holroyd, who used to date T.J., is now married to Adrian, and is presented as more overbearing than any of them can deal with.
What happens during the weekend is something that nobody can see coming, especially the audience, and the story couldn’t be timelier with everything that has happened in politics over the course of the last year and with the Hollywood disclosures in the last three months.
The scenic design by Tess Tremayne and lighting design by Mitch Miller makes the small set seem both realistic and fun, and the timeliness of the special effects – from phones ringing to music playing to the belches that play such a major role – makes the play move along seamlessly.
And there’s not much I can say about the acting other than it’s well worth the $20 or $10, depending on your circumstance, and the experience will be far better than anything you’ll get a local movie theater.
So, if you’re curious about what sorts of things may be in store for Manteca if the council ever fulfills its longstanding goal of delivering a performing arts center, or want to know what a smaller theater – perhaps something like what Chris Teicheira is imagining with the comedy club and space he’s planning on bringing to town – can produce, then you’re going to want to pop in and see what it’s all about.
Support local artists – you’ll surely be glad that you did.
The Prospect Theater Project is located at 1214 K Street in Downtown Modesto, and Beer for Breakfast continues with a four-day run starting on Jan. 18 with 8 p.m. shows between Jan. 18 and Jan. 20, and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on Jan. 21. Tickets are $20 for general admission seats and $10 for students, and the show contains mild profanity and some adult themes.
For additional information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.prospecttheaterproject.org.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.