by Rose Desena
If you’re looking for a laugh and an edgier than “prime time”” night, check out LONE-ANON by Neil McGowan. He offers the kind of wackiness that audiences can sink their teeth into whether you’re on a date or out with the girls.
McGowan and the gang at the Rogue Machine allows you to take a fly-on-the-wall seat to view this friendly, positive, court-ordered support group were forming a connection to other people is not only encouraged. It’s mandatory. It’s really a play, and you won’t be asked to share.
Directed by Keith Stevenson and featuring a cast of pros such as Brenda Davidson (the shy librarian), Brian Letscher (a handsome, and compulsive liar), Neil McGowan (the nerd appeal), Melissa Paladino (who owns a few too many cats), Keith Stevenson (the Birkenstock and pony-tailed leader of the pack), and Tyson Turrou (the man in camouflage wardrobe), the audience is drawn in deeper by each one of the character’s stories.
You gotta wonder where this kind of stuff comes from. So I asked the playwright for some insight into the inspiration and creation of this quirky comedy.
Rose: Personally, I am not one for this group therapy stuff, is there going to be a lot that group hugging? I won’t have to hug the person next to me?
Neil McGowan: No, I can attest that there is no hugging in this play. I am not personally against hugging, but it’s just kind of hard to fit an embrace into a play about introverts. As far as you hugging any fellow audience members, please feel free, but probably only if you know them really well.
Rose: I know from experience; writing is a lonely gig. Are you a loner, or just wanted to play one on stage? How did this play come about?
Neil McGowan: One day, over a year ago, I was suddenly seized by an anxiety that I’d never felt before. It was the weekend of that terrible mass shooting in Colorado, the one in the movie theater on the opening night of the new Batman movie. It was another senseless act of violence perpetrated by an individual who would be later described as a man who “kept to himself.” Being a single guy in my late 30s that had never really gotten around to meeting people in my apartment complex, I had acquired a slight paranoia that perhaps I was perceived by my neighbors as…”one of those guys.” They probably weren’t actually thinking that (and would have been foolish to, seeing as how I’ve never worn a stitch of camouflage and don’t own so much as a paintball gun), but it got me to imagine a world in which introverts become the new objects of persecution. It didn’t take a very big leap to envision a future in which the loners and shy among us would be identified, put on a list, and herded into forced rehabilitation. And thus, Lone-Anon was born.
Rose: That Brain guy, “the liar,” sounds like an old boyfriend of mine. Were the characters modeled after people, you knew.
Neil McGowan: I think you’re referring to Lincoln, played by Brian Letscher. I tend to think of Lincoln not so much as a liar, but a man who resents the situation he’s been put in and uses his best asset to rail against it: his creativity. There are bits of people I know and a lot of myself in every character, but no one character was based on any one real person. I’m really finding that a lot of people are able to identify with at least one of the characters, and it’s been interesting for me to learn that almost everyone has some inclination towards introversion inside them, even if they don’t appear that way outwardly.
Rose: This is considered the “world premiere production” but didn’t it run at Pacific Resident Theatre before. How did that come about?
Neil McGowan: Lone-Anon was work shopped last spring for a short run, along with two other short plays by a writer named Tracy Poverstein, in PRT’s small co-op space. It’s a great, safe place for new plays to run with a friendly audience with no fear of being reviewed. It wasn’t even advertised except for some postcards. Keith and I took what we learned from the experience, I worked on rewrites, and the result is our “ready for primetime” Rogue Machine world premier. “Primetime” in this case being 10:30pm.
Rose: Your director Keith Stevenson had a successful play himself, and you starred in it. Will you talk a little about the artistic partnership and how you got started?
Neil McGowan: Keith and I have known each other for over 20 years, having met at West Virginia University as acting majors in the theater department. Over the years, we have collaborated on many projects at PRT and other theatres, as well as starting our own film company called Wee Small Films (weesmallfilms.com) where we create, write, direct and act in our own short films, a few which have gone to film festivals all over the world. Probably, our greatest mutual success so far, however, is the play you just referred to, “Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd,” written by Keith and starring the both of us. It ran for six months at PRT last year, and that’s not counting the month that we ran it again along with its holiday sequel, “A Fried Meat Christmas.”
Rose: So, is it Keith’s turn to write the next play? What’s in the works for your next project?
Neil McGowan: Rumor has it that Keith is planning on writing a new installment of “Fried Meat” for next year. Considering my character wasn’t killed off in the Christmas play, I assume I’ll be a part of that. Now that this play is open, I’m beginning the process of pondering what to write next, which basically involves a lot of staring into space longingly and weeks or months of frustration until inspiration hits. But hopefully it will hit sooner rather than later, because this experience has given me more confidence and whetted my appetite for getting my writing out there.
Rose: Writing is addicting. This sounds like fun, now that I know I don’t have to hug anyone I will check it out. Thanks for your time and break a leg.
The show starts at 1030; it’s a perfect way to end a date night dinner. No date, no problem the lobby is always buzzing just before curtain time, lots of cool people. Who knows you might meet someone?
The Rogue Machine
5041 Pico Blvd., LA, CA 90019
Reservations 855-585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com
Fridays-Saturdays at 10:30pm
Tickets: Only $25
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