Friday, Aug. 2
When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 10
Where: Clara Johnson Memorial Auditorium at Patterson High School, 200 N. Seventh St.
Cost: $10 general admission, $8 students and seniors
Murri Royal Brown
Tori Lee Scoles
Whether you are a frequent theatre-goer or a non-native folk of the performing arts, Patterson Repertory Theatre’s newest production will genuinely force any member of the audience to suffer from fits of giggles.
Veteran director Joshua Morriston of Merced College continues to showcase local actors’ comedic chops in his self-titled production, “Dysfunctional Lives,” a play consisting of four one act productions, each written by the talented and somewhat delirious Christopher Durang, a Tony Award-winning American playwright known for turning ordinary situations into outrageous comedic absurdities.
“We were lucky to get talented actors for this production,” said Morriston of his cast. “Good timing is important in a comedy, and isn’t really that simple. The actors must determine the best way to interpret the script. They’ve done that, and the play will surprise you.”
The production begins with a short segment featuring everyone’s least favorite visit, a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles. “DMV Tyrant,” is a story about James Agnes (Robert Gress), a man who must tolerate an unhelpful clerk (Tori Scoles) as he attempts to get his license renewed despite infuriating results.
The next production takes a more sexual turn in “Wanda’s Visit.” Jim (Kenny Roderick) and Marsha (Murri Royal Brown) have been married for 13 years, but their marriage shakes when Wanda (Brooke Borba), an old high school girlfriend, returns for a short visit, but soon becomes a guest from hell.
The third act, “Funeral Parlor” features a widow (Brown) who becomes accosted at her husband’s funeral by a very inappropriate guest (Gress).
The final segment ends with “The Actor’s Nightmare,” where George (Roderick) is forced to take part in a series of mingling productions despite never having rehearsed any of the plays.
Each actor said they’ve enjoyed performing for Morriston, and believed he brought out the best of their individual qualities as an actor.
“Josh is one of my favorite directors,” said Brown, who recently collaborated with Morriston in “Macbeth” and “Reindeer Monologues.” “He is well rounded, relaxed and gives us plenty of freedom and our own voice while still maintaining structure. I continue to grow as an actor under his instruction.”
“I’ve worked with Josh several times in the past, and he is by far the most creative and upbeat director I’ve encountered,” added fellow actor Marcos Simental. “These shows truly showcase his talent.”
Morriston’s talent has shaken the Patterson community by storm, and continues to surprise even the surliest of theatre guests. His current production not only exudes charm, but leaves a lasting impression even hours after audiences have strode out the door.
Cast members believe Morriston’s mixture of surprise and delicately picked productions are the key to his success.
“What makes ‘Dysfunctional lives’ interesting is that it is a play who can reach anyone,” said Roderick. “It’s a relatable comedy, and the audience will have the chance to see themselves and the people they know represented in the characters.”
Although Morriston acknowledged that a love for theatre runs sparse in the region, determining that not many rural communities are interested in productions, he believes that anyone can fall in love with theatre if given the chance.
Gress, a theatre junkie since 2006, used to think theatre a joke, but now finds solace in its entrapment.
“It’s like therapy,” said Gress. “It will work if you want it to; it’s immersing. Now, it’s all I know and all I want to do.”
Gress now acts as a playwright. One of his scripts, “Self-loathing,” is currently being produced in downtown Modesto.
Morriston isn’t fazed by the community’s current outlook. He remains determined to let his productions speak for themselves.
“Yes, Patterson is remote compared to Modesto, but big things are coming,” Morriston said during Thursday evenings rehersal. “I want people to realize there are damn good shows being put on. You’d be surprised how far better this is than television.”
• Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org