THANATOS' HAS FUNNY OBSESSION WITH DEATH SCOTT CORDES DIRECTS A RON SIMONIAN SCRIPT FOR NEW THEATER GROUP.
October 11, 1992 By ROBERT TRUSSELL Publication: The Kansas City Star
Just when local stages were looking a bit drowsy, here comes a burst of theater with an attitude. The ever-rebellious Scott Cordes is directing "Thanatos," a new play by Kansas City writer Ron Simonian that deals with the all-too-common human obsession with death. The show is being produced by Fourth and Inches, a new group that, for all practical purposes, is Simonian by another name. The production will open at 8 p.m. Friday and run each weekend through Oct. 31 at the BETV Sound Stage, 214 W. 21st St. The building is a warehouse behind Manny's Restaurant. (Tickets cost $5. Call 491-9273.) Cordes, an actor and the husband of local theater artist Lisa Cordes, said he first became aware of Simonian when he read a screenplay by the writer. Simonian later showed him the script for "Thanatos. " "It's excellent," Cordes said. "I'm not the biggest on text - I don't understand it that much all the time - but my wife, who is just the opposite, thought that he was a fine playwright. " The play depicts two disaster relief workers who must grapple with the randomness of violent death. Cordes said the play contained "mental" violence but little actual violence. "What it gets down to is that everybody has a little bit of wanting to die and wanting to see somebody die," he said. "I know it sounds very strange to say this after all that, but it's very funny. But that's the way Ron writes Real life's pretty funny, and I think Ron brings that out. " The cast includes Christopher Clarke, Ward Wright, Ray Smith, Brenda Mason and Gene Hockman. The sets are by Ron Megee. "I'm not pulling your leg," Cordes said. "It's a good script. I wouldn't spend my time with it otherwise. " Barrymore II Gary Holcombe took time off to attend an out-of-state wedding and was temporarily replaced last week by Mark Robbins in the American Heartland Theatre production of "I Hate Hamlet. " Holcombe makes a fine Barrymore, but Robbins, as expected, holds his own, judging from a matinee last Wednesday. He looks more like the real Barrymore, and his ability to fill a stage with an expansive performance serves the material well. One had to sympathize with the performers, however, as they played to a minimally responsive and rather small audience made up principally of senior citizens. At times the actors must have thought they were performing before a painting of an audience. Holcombe is scheduled to resume the role Tuesday. Comparing the two performances brought to mind Theater Critic Fantasy No. 34: Wouldn't it be nice if an imaginative producer cast Holcombe and Robbins in roles of equal weight in the same show? "A Walk in the Woods" comes to mind, as well as "Inherit the Wind" and "Becket. " There must be others. Just another idle thought... Theater benefit Mayor Emanuel Cleaver is expected to attend the opening performance on Tuesday of "They're Playing Our Song" at the Plaza Dinner Playhouse, 5028 Main St. The performance Tuesday is a benefit for reStart, a service organization that provides emergency shelter and assistance to the homeless. The organization will receive $10 from every ticket sold to the opening-night show. Theatergoers also are encouraged to take blankets, coffee, sugar and other practical items that will be collected at the door. Dinner is served at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30 p.m. "They're Playing Our Song" is a musical with music by Marvin Hamlisch, a script by Neil Simon and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. Tickets to the benefit cost $25. Call 756-2266 for more information. Big Bob He made his name as Lancelot in the original Broadway production of "Camelot," but now Robert Goulet is barnstorming the country as King Arthur in the classic Lerner and Loewe musical. The show is scheduled to open at 8 p.m. Friday at the Music Hall, followed by performances at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18. Ticket prices range from $23.50 to $28.50 and are available at the box office and Ticketmaster outlets. Call 421-7500 or 931-3330. Columbus send-up The ever-irreverent Froghead Theatre Co. will perform a live-radio production today called "Goodbye, Columbus. " No, it has nothing to do with the Philip Roth novel, and it won't be on radio. But it will be onstage, at 2 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the Cultural Education Center at Johnson County Community College. The show, in case you haven't guessed, makes fun of the Italian guy who stumbled into the Americas on his way to the Far East back in 1492. Tickets cost $5. For more information, call 649-7517. KU bulletin Actor Kip Niven, a native of Prairie Village, will direct a production of William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" at the University of Kansas. The show opens Friday, runs through Oct. 18 and will be repeated Oct. 22-24 in Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall on the Lawrence campus. Niven, a graduate of the KU theater department, has appeared in films, television and theater, including roles in the Broadway productions of "Chess" and "Nick and Nora. " "The Tempest" opens the University of Kansas Theatre's 1992-93 season. For ticket information, call the Murphy Hall box-office at (913) 864-3982. Stage V returns Stage V Inc., an area theater group, has returned and will perform "Agnes of God" Tuesday through Oct. 18 at the David Theater, 4200 W. Riverside St., Riverside. The playhouse is the home of the Bell Road Barn Players. Showtimes are 8 p.m. except on Oct. 18, when the performance begins at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $6. Call 649-7596. The Kansas City Star Date: October 11, 1992 Page: J2 Copyright 1992, 1996 The Kansas City Star Co.