‘The Demise of the Downtown Bar Scene’
Marisa Iati | Wednesday, April 9, 2014
A struggling bar in New York City, its territorial middle-aged owner and two female employees with contrasting personalities set the stage for “The Demise of the Downtown Bar Scene,” a student-run production opening today in the Washington Hall Lab Theatre.
The primary action of the show revolves around the relationships between the business’s owner and its young bartenders, co-writer and assistant director Katherine Dudas said.
“Between the three of them, there’s kind of an interesting dynamic going on, a kind of tension between the owner and the bartender who’s been there for a while — a very friendly, vivacious, flirtier woman,” Dudas, a senior, said. “And then here comes, a month ago, this college dropout who definitely has a past.
“Her goals and her attitudes conflict a lot with the vivacious, been-there-for-a-while female bartender. The owner of the bar feels like he has a bit of ownership over the women’s bodies who work for him and attempts to use kind of their sexuality to lure in more customers.”
Through these three main characters, the show addresses issues related to alcohol, sex, friendships and relationships, co-writer and director Joey Doyle said.
“This show is very much about what the lines are of the hook-up culture and when is someone being nice, when is someone asking for it, if that’s ever an applicable phrase,” he said.
Senior Renée Roden plays Francine, the woman who has worked at the bar for seven years. Roden said her character often faces questions about her intentions when she interacts with men.
“Those expectations, those perceptions, those make up such a large part of our human interaction,” Roden said. “I think the fact that they’re a part of our show are so true to real life. These are the sorts of communication struggles that we deal with all the time.
“A lot of the main conflicts surrounding my character come from a disconnect between how she sees her behavior and how other people see it. So they explore the comedy that can come out of those disconnects and the more painful situations that can come out of those.”
Doyle, a junior, said “The Demise of the Downtown Bar Scene” avoids becoming too heavy while raising questions about sexual assault and the line between friendship and flirtation.
“As important as [the concept of friendship versus flirtation] is to the play and as much as we think it’s something worth discussing, it’s also a gold mine for comedy because so much comedy is based off of misunderstandings and people taking things the wrong way,” Doyle said. “We kind of realized that this was an awesome route into discussing some issues that we think are interesting and worth talking about but won’t be didactic.”
The show runs for approximately two hours and moves fast, Doyle said.
“We really don’t want to give people the time to stop and think until after the play is done,” he said. “We want to just keep throwing new things at them, keep them laughing and interested, but allowing them to hit intermission and then think, ‘Oh, all that stuff that just happened is kind of resonating in an interesting way.’ We’re not really trying to teach any lessons during the show.”
Dudas said although the play highlights complex issues, it is ultimately about the characters.
“Sometimes plays can go too much about philosophy and this is what my theme is,” she said. “So we tried very much to make it about the people and about the story, because first and foremost, it’s a story.”
The show’s six unique and quirky characters shape its humor, as well as its substance, Roden said.
“These characters are all just really phenomenal characters ⎯ so unique, so silly, so lovable,” she said. “Definitely, the hook is the comedy, but also, there’s a real heart to this story, and there’s a real message, and they’re not afraid to make these characters be going through things that are real.”
The play has a distinct sense of time and place, Doyle said. And, he added, it’s “BYOC: Bring Your Own Coaster.”
“The Demise of the Downtown Bar Scene” is produced by the Farley Hall Players.
It opens today at 7:30 p.m. in the Washington Hall Lab Theatre. Additional performances will be Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $4 and are available at the box office in the LaFortune Student Center.