The playwright and screenwriter Donna Hoke has been exceptionally clear about her inspiration and course of for writing Discovering Neil Patrick Harris, her quirky comedy simply opened at Caos on F introduced by Nu Sass Productions. Hoke started the work throughout COVID lockdown, she says, beginning with (a) a theater critic’s bizarre private joke and (b) two comedian actresses wanting her to put in writing a play for them. She amalgamated (a) and (b), composed a brand new scene per week, posted every in sequence on her weblog, and a few 17 scenes later had a primary draft.
Which can clarify the cobbled-together high quality of a script whose setup is legit hokey: Two bickering ladies who work in a spa are giving a mani and a pedi to a person, a daily buyer, who out of the blue lets them know that when he dies he needs his ashes flung at his dream crush, Neil Patrick Harris. (That theater critic, what a card.) The person then drops useless on the spot. The unnerved nail techs determine to take it upon themselves to grant their dearly departed consumer his dying want (due to course), and within the wacky means of doing so, they kind an unbelievable bond and give up bickering.
The play begins in a nail salon (that includes two oversize pink chairs and footbaths for purchasers, cabinets filled with multicolored polish on provide, and an indication promoting companies at costs escalating from “Important” to “Lavish” to “Bliss”). Making an attempt to one-up one another in funniness are co-workers Cha-Cha (Selena Gill taking part in wired spitfire) and Katie (Aubri O’Connor taking part in strained craving to be favored). Petty squabbling is their shtick, and it persists as they deal with the toes and fingers of Lucio (Joshua Aaron Poole taking part in wry and low-key counterpoint).
As soon as Lucio dies (gesticulating in grotesque dying throes unnoticed by the 2 ladies, who’re off in a nook chatting), Cha-Cha and Katie’s plan to search out NPH is hatched (suppose a cockamamie Lucy-and-Ethel caper that the community would have nixed). Their first cease, with a purpose to get hold of Lucio’s ashes, is the house of Lucio’s sister, Lucy, performed by Poole in a headwrap and garish housedress with an aura of Leslie Jordan. Because the story takes Cha-Cha and Katie to New York Metropolis, Poole additionally has foolish turns as a relaxation cease employee and man on the road.
A content material warning in this system advises there can be mud, and certainly in a number of cartoonish scenes, plumes of prop cremains fill the air. Of us within the entrance row can be nicely suggested to maintain their facemasks on.
Between scenes are monologues, that are framed as mini standup routines (Gill is especially efficient in participating with the viewers). These bits don’t a lot advance the story as showcase the 2 sparring nail techs’ competitiveness in comedy — plus they cowl for set shifts, which on this tiny Caos stage area will be arduous. (Director Bess Kaye has met this problem in addition to might be executed.)
A motif of Cha-Cha and Katie’s interactions is a riff on what’s humorous and what’s not. “Reality plus ache. Humorous,” explains Cha-Cha, who presents herself because the extra completed comedy author, with a number of sitcom pilots. “Folks love humorous individuals,” says Katie, which just about sums up the hapless stakes for her — she has however a single TV comedy thought. Their operating disquisition on wit doesn’t really play as humorous because the playwright in all probability supposed, but it surely does function a touching entry into who these ladies want they have been.
Nu Sass Productions’ estimable mission says partly that it “strives to encourage marginalized genders in all points of theater, particularly in these roles historically dominated by cisgender males.” Now getting into its 14th yr, the corporate has chosen Discovering Neil Patrick Harris to kick off a repertory season that may embrace two different performs — Open by Crystal Skillman and Oreo Complicated by Lillian Brown. I’ve seen the corporate do wonderful and attention-grabbing work prior to now, so whereas I acknowledge the earnest effort that has gone into the current manufacturing, I look ahead to the Nu Sass reveals coming subsequent.
Operating Time: 85 minutes with no intermission.
Discovering Neil Patrick Harris performs via June 9, 2023, in rep with Open (April 28 to Could 27) and Oreo Complicated (Could 20 to June 2) introduced by Nu Sass Productions acting at Caos on F, 923 F Road NW, Washington, DC. Tickets, which can be bought on-line, are $30, common admission; $60, Date Night time (2 tickets + 2 drinks + 2 snacks); $10, trade/college students/important staff/navy; and Pay What You Will, all performances, anybody. Seating is restricted to 30 viewers members per efficiency.
COVID Security: Masks are inspired however not required. Choose mask-required performances can be scheduled.
Discovering Neil Patrick Harris
Written by Donna Hoke
Directed by Bess Kaye
Stage Supervisor: Sophia Menconi
Producers: Aubri O’Connor and Ileana Blustein
Starring: Aubri O’Connor (Katie), Selena Gill (Cha-Cha), and Joshua Aaron Poole (Lucio, et. al)
Understudies: Rachel Brightbill (Katie), Jillian Riti (Cha-Cha), and Justin Meyer (Lucio, et. al)
Set: Aubri O’Connor and Ileana Blustein
Lights: Hailey LaRoe
Sound: Miki Bear
Costumes: Aubri O’Connor and Ileana Blustein
Props: Aubri O’Connor and Ileana Blustein
Advertising and marketing Designs: Miki Bear
Social Media: Laolu Fayese
Home Supervisor: Allison McAlister