Even though "The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill," Jeff Goode's comedy about prejudice, is half an hour too long and is basically a one-trick pony, it's about as funny as anything I've seen at the theater in these parts in ages. It's playing at Studio Roanoke in downtown Roanoke.
If you want to see it, you'll need to hurry, since it runs only through Sunday. Get your tickets here.
Tonight's performance was sold out and I understand sales have been brisk. My guess would be that its look at Southern culture on the skids is bringing in the locals (excepting Republicans, who'd be uncomfortable with the attacks on some of their core beliefs, I'd bet) in droves. There are portions where the play slows from its own comedic weight, but those would be easily trimmed following this premier.
Basically, what we have here is seven old boys sitting on a porch being rednecks with a slight difference. To borrow a reference, there's a bit of a "light in the loafer" element among them. That's the one-trick pony and it's played all the way out.
The delivery of actors like Ross Laguzza, as something of a fallen preacher (and fallen is both literal and figurative here) and Brian O'Sullivan (whose face is made of rubber and who doesn't need to do much to bring a roar of laughter) give the play its heart and soul. This is a fine ensemble cast of local actors most of you will know: Simon Adkins, Michael Brickler, Stephen Glassbrenner, Owen Merrit and Blair Peyton. No women; just good ole boys who ain't so good.
Cheryl Snodgrass directed this piece with skill and apparent familiarity with the subject matter.
Most of the humor is predictable after the first few minutes, but the timing is good, the lines crisp and when Ross Laguzza is given time and space, he brings the house down. Even in the background, he's hilarious.
Catch it. A good laugh--especially a good political laugh at the expense of our brothers and sisters on the right--is not so hard to come by these days, given the Republican debates, but it's always welcome.