“These Things Happen” Happens to be a Bold New Take on Comedic Theatre

Debuting new play by L. Alan Mason pushes the boundaries of what goes on stage and how actors interact with a script.

Franki Hanke, Senior Reporter

Set in the Clinton era of 1995 in a small town in Kentucky, Dave McDowell finds himself mostly naked in another unfamiliar bed. Confused, he rolls over to find a girl beside the bed dressed in black pleather and teetering heels. She informs him that he’s in bed with Jeremy.

Jeremy being a girl named for the song “A Boy Named Sue” who sits up, laughing to say she’d helped plan his murder. As the lights go black, everyone’s laughing except Dave.

As the play progressed, stunned and vaguely confused silence intermixed with jolting laughter from a combination of dark, unfiltered material within the plot and clever wit in the writing as we see Dave meet Darcy Williams, whom he went to highschool with.

“Darcy’s Antisocial Personality Disorder has standard sociopathic tendencies and because Dave’s character also has non-traditional social behaviors, it kinda caught Darcy off guard,” said actress Piper Shatz-Akin, who played Darcy.

The main plot of Darcy and Dave’s relationship, billed as an “average love story between a suicidal guy and a homicidal girl,” is supported by three key friends of Darcy’s, all who are vastly different except for their shared gothic fashion sense, and the rest of the cast in the small, college town. Each step that unravels is surprising, but never surpasses the limits of reality, leaving the final product raw and real.

Writer L. Alan Mason shared that the piece is fiction, though he drew inspiration for the first act from his own life growing up in Kentucky while the second act was born of asking “What if?” Acting as both writer and co-director, Mason was able to witness his scripts coming to the stage and the actors were able to interact with the script in ways that aren’t typically possible.

“I think with it being a new work there were a lot of ways we got to give input as we learned about our characters and we got to say, ‘Hey! What do you think if our character did this?’” said actor Jeremy Johnson, who played multiple roles.

As rehearsals went on, the script developed between this back and forth development as the cast learned the characters and the man who’d written them.

“They’ve kept me on my toes, as the writer, I went into it thinking I had all the answers, but not only did I not have all the answers because they supplied some of the answers, but some of the questions I’ve never even thought of, they hit me with,” Mason said.

Mason often left rehearsals only to drive around, considering what had come up before returning to the next rehearsals to pitch new ideas which were sometimes successfully accepted, sometimes considered for further work and sometimes flat out rejected, though good-naturedly so. In the end, that development produced the final version that premieres at Phoenix Theater.

For those interested, the show features evening shows on Feb. 22 through 26 at 7:00 p.m. with matinees on Feb. 25 and 26 at 3:00 p.m. at Phoenix Theater. Tickets are $10.