On Saturday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. Eventide Theatre Company's Virtual Playhouse will present the regional premiere of Lee Roscoe's timely satire about the rise of tyranny in the United States, “Impossible?” This free, livestreamed event will take place on Eventide's Facebook page, facebook.com/eventidetheatrecompany.
“Impossible?” focuses on a group of friends in a small New England town and how their lives are affected and transformed by the rise to power of a tyrannical president. Any similarities to the present situation in real life to the contrary, Roscoe wrote the play back in the Bush era. It is an expression of her longtime obsession with and exploration of the rise or potential rise of fascism in the United States.
The subject matter sounds like serious business, and it is, but within Roscoe's skilled and playful hands the two-act work emerges as a funny, insightful and thought-provoking experience filled with witty dialog and laughter.
Sarah St. Mimsey is an artist who just wants to make ends meet. Dave O’Sulley, Sarah's love interest and romantic partner, owns the local radio station. Their best friend, Landon Eldredge, is a farmer. Their relationships and lives are thrown into turmoil with the rise of newly elected president Eddie Fabuloso, cheered on by his adviser Nikki Mugg. As Fabuloso's stability begins to deteriorate, his impact on the nation and its people grows more dire. The local meets the national as O'Sulley covers a Fabuloso rally for his small town radio listeners.
Roscoe is an award-winning playwright whose plays have been seen from New York City to venues all over Cape Cod as well as in Boston, at the Great Plains Theater Conference in Omaha, Neb. and on public radio in San Francisco and at Brandeis University. An Equity actress who trained at HB Studio and Circle in the Square, she knows theater from backstage to footlights. She explained that although her plays take on different forms — from poetic to satire to kitchen sink realism — they all explore how the dysfunctional nature of our culture impacts human hearts and relationships.
“The patterns of authoritarianism are cartoonlike in their obviousness,” Roscoe said. “It always happens the same way, whether it's Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet. It's the same pattern. Exceptionalism. Fake religiosity. Militarism. Greed. Grabs for power.”
“Impossible?” has undergone different transformations over the years as it has been workshopped and finessed, Roscoe said, and in this version she has added a few timely bits of recognizable color.
“That's the nice thing about theater,” Roscoe said. “You can change and adjust, adapt to the times. So I inserted a few appropriate lines into this version.”
The introduction of a hyperbolized, cartoonish affect to the White House has a real impact on Roscoe's characters on a grand scale. She emphasizes that her play is not intended to be partisan, but rather to investigate how this cartoonishness and realism intersect in the story. How will it all affect this guy who owns a radio station and the woman he is in a relationship with? Will it bring them closer? Or drive them apart? What happens when it rebounds on them? Will their friendships survive the strain? A character Roscoe describes as “right wing” in the play feels marginalized, and we feel for him too.
“We empathize with him,” Roscoe explained. “There are no paper tigers here except the president.”
“Impossible?” was originally scheduled to premiere in September as a full-scale stage production on Eventide Theatre Company's Gertrude Lawrence Stage in Dennis, but with the rise of COVID-19, the theater did what all great theaters do. They improvised and adapted.
“The plan is to follow the trend we started with 'Touched by War' in the spring,” Eventide's Artistic Director Chris Edwards said, referring to the theater's virtual production in May of the 2020 Jeremiah Kaplan Playwriting Competition winner by James Marlow. “Actors will have entrances and exits, there will be sound effects, we'll have appropriate virtual backdrops for scenes. We will produce the play in a manner that will be as close to what we would do onstage as we can under the limitations of Zoom. We've found it very effective in the past.”
“Impossible?” will feature Susanna Creel, Bonnie Fairbanks, Adolfo Herrera, Geoff Newton, Brandon Prentiss, Stephen Rourke and Skye Whitcomb.
This event is free, and donations will be welcomed. “Impossible?” is supported by The Massachusetts Cultural Council and the towns of Brewster and Dennis. See the livestream premiere on Eventide's Facebook page, facebook.com/eventidetheatrecompany on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. The recording will be available at eventidearts.org through Sunday, Nov. 15.