August 5, 2010
Renegade takes a chance on Bennett
By Christa Lawler
When “Sex Changes” opens, a 30-something
couple is engaged in the sort of special marital hug that leads
The pillow talk is a mix of experimental mood-setting
banter and what could be considered shop talk for those in the baby-making
biz: “And I never thought I’d say this,” says
the snarky and literary leading lady Robin. “My eggs are in
my tubes, sperm robot. Get over here and punch back in.”
Renegade Theater Company’s contemporary
comedy is a world premiere for the piece by writer/director/actor
Andy Bennett, and it opens at 8 p.m. today at Teatro Zuccone, 222
E. Superior St. It’s directed by Kelli Latuska and stars Renegade
regulars such as Gracie Anderson, Katy Helbacka, Evan Kelly, Jody
Kujawa, Jake Neuman and Jennie Ross, who were all involved with
the rock opera “Tommy.”
It is the story of Luke, household spider killer
and part-time wingman for his best friend, and his wife, Robin,
who pays the bills and contorts her body into the conception lotus.
All the baby-talk has the couple feeling a five-year glitch, and
they end up at a wacky therapist’s office. Dr. Herschfeld
performs a radical new treatment, putting Luke’s mind in Robin’s
body, and Robin’s mind in Luke’s.
While this isn’t the first time a local
theater company has made an entire show from scratch, it is far
from a standard.
“It’s a risk as a producer,”
said Tom Isbell, a local playwright and professor at the University
of Minnesota Duluth, who had Bennett as a student. “There’s
no name recognition. I know it’s going to be a brilliant play,
but it doesn’t have name recognition yet. People have heard
of ‘Our Town.’ They haven’t heard of this.”
This is Bennett’s fourth play to be produced:
He did two while he was a student at UMD, and there was a thriller
that was produced as part of a workshop at Chicago Dramatists. But,
he admitted, his name has a lack of cache at this point and said
he might only draw “people who know me, and people who like
Latuska said the production is an exciting experiment,
but that it isn’t as risky when you know and trust the writer.
She’s worked with Bennett in sketch comedy.
“Having worked with him on Dink Tank, I
wasn’t worried about it,” she said.
Bennett has been very hands-on with the production. He held a public
reading and workshop of “Sex Changes” earlier this year,
and there have been last-minute rewrites. Just last week he cut
an entire scene. In some cases, the actors have made jokes funnier.
(Bennett said his theory is “Best joke wins.”)
“I’m sitting there every night,”
he said during a recent rehearsal. “That’s the nature
of the beast. They have been really flexible.”