Pizza Man’s slice of black comedy at Town Hall studio

NEW YORK’S Benefit Of The Doubt Theatre Company touch down at the Town Hall Studio next week with their staging of Darlene Craviotto’s uproarious dark comedy, Pizza Man.

The play centres on flatmates Julie and Alice and we meet them on the day Julie has just lost her job and Alice has been ditched by her married lover. Mad at the world in large and men in particular the duo plot to vent their anger by raping pizza delivery man Eddie who comes in to share a beer. From there on the evening gets crazier, wilder, and very, very funny.

Ahead of BoTD’s Galway visit, company co-founder and executive director Elyse Price (who also plays the role of Julie ), took some time out to talk about the ensemble and this production.

“Benefit Of the Doubt Theatre Company was started in 2007 by myself and Joel Bernard, artistic director of the company,” Price reveals. “We are New York actors whose lives revolve around theatre.

“As a young artist, I always had aspirations to start my own theatre collective. When I met and became close to Joel, we realised there was no reason not to push forward with this idea that seemed so simple and so right.

“We knew so many talented people from the audition circuit of NYC, various projects we worked on in the past, and people that we met through various acting classes over the course of the last 10 years. We hope to continue to travel with our troupe, and bring with us the creative principles by which we live our lives.”

Moving on to Pizza Man, how would Price say that author Craviotto tackles the emotive theme of rape?

“She approaches it from a comedic standpoint,” says Price. “She shows how far one will go to achieve a sense of purpose. Rape is a difficult thing to talk about and she very bravely tackles the issue in a unique offbeat way.

“She approaches it from the periphery. She uses an indirect approach, cleverly, and unexpectedly using comedy to explore the defeated human psyche. She is in no way saying rape is funny, she is in fact saying the opposite. Showing how far off the edge one can fall when life is not just stagnant but seemingly moving in reverse.”

Darlene Craviotto is not a name Irish audiences will be familiar with and Price goes on to outline some her qualities as a writer.

“Her writing style is conversational,” she says. “She has a great command of language and a unique approach to comedy as well as drama. Her story is thought-provoking and her characters are well-written to be real human beings.

“This play has proven to be extremely challenging and fulfilling for us. The issues dealt with in this play are relevant to the times we are living in today. The nature of humans in dealing with failure and self worth. The inherent need to feel worthy to be alive, fulfilled in life. The progression of child into adult and how mixed up one can get in the process. Proving to yourself that you are deserving of happiness.”

How does this young New York troupe come to be playing in Galway?

“Last summer several members of the company were living in Galway studying JM Synge’s Playboy Of The Western World and the Irish National Theatre,” Price explains. “While there we came in contact with the Town Hall when we saw a production of Tape by Stephen Belber, produced by Fregoli Theatre Company.

“After spending the year working on our NY season we anticipated returning, being in the land that is so beautiful and inspirational. We had met people our age, at our stage of life, doing the same thing as us. This meeting with our Irish counterparts strengthened our purpose, reaffirmed our objectives. Being able to bring the show here is a blessing.”

Finally one intriguing aspect of BoTD’s production is that it features two revolving casts and two directors.

“It is an experimental theatre project,” says Price. “Many of us have had the experience of working on a project and then seeing it performed by another company. Although we each reject the idea of competition, the comparison in inevitable.

“So what are the differences between two productions of the same play with different actors and a different director? How do we reconcile the difference between two artistic choices which are both ‘true’?

“Two different actors in the same role will create two different characters. What will the similarities be? Are these then the thoughts of the playwright, crystallised? Can the true meaning of the play, or rather the super objective, be plumbed in this way? These are the questions that we strive to answer with a project of this nature.”

Pizza Man is at the Town Hall studio from Wednesday August 12 to Sunday 16 at 8.30pm nightly. Tickets are €10 from 091 - 569777.

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