Playwright, actor, and backyard impresario, Tom Dugan does it again! The restraints of the pandemic have abated and Mr. Dugan has produced yet another winner adjacent to his swimming pool where he has erected some risers and put in some comfortable seats. He has built a set with ample theatre lighting, which is controlled by the stage manager (Cameron Kauffman) in the back. There is as much seating as I have seen in some small Hollywood theatres and the seats are backyard-spacious and comfortable.
Cemetery Pub is a three-character black comedy set in a rundown bar across from the railroad tracks. It’s never referred to, but in my imagination it feels like New England. Maybe it’s because one the characters, played by Dugan himself, is a loose living-priest with a great heart, Father Chris O’Brien. The good priest has a mission. He has summoned Dan McGuinness (handsome, well-dressed J. P. Hubbell) to help young bar owner, Dixie O’Brien (the excellent Kait Haire), out of a jam. She is the third generation to run the bar, which is failing. The slim young woman is a jittery motormouth who can really, really skewer anyone close to her. As the play progresses, Dixie reveals that she has little liking for men. She has good reason, but that is not her biggest, immediate problem.
An attentive audience member will see that she has a bandaged right hand. She has brutishly put down the unwanted advances of a giant oaf named Choo Choo, who, in his bovine anger, pinned Dixie’s hand to the bar with a sharp knife that, thankfully, has missed the important parts—bones, sinews, etc,— that would have crippled her hand. This is where dapper Dan McGuinness comes in. He is more than an empty suit and has skills honed over decades.
The cast makes the most of Dugan’s text fast-paced script, which is taut and sharp, giving a highly appreciative audience plenty of thrills and laughs.
Cemetery Pub is terrifically entertaining piece of theatre, as is the performance of Dugan himself. In his second backyard play, The Ghosts of Mary Lincoln (2013), he took on the title role. The tall actor-director-playwright made the audience forget that Mary Todd Lincoln was short and plump. I sure hope that his plays will gain a wider audience.
Kudos to the technical staff: The Petersons, lighting; Steve Shaw sound design; set construction, J. P. & Tom; and costume design, Kait, J. P. & Tom.
Cemetery Pub continues into May. Here is the info you need:
Dugan’s Backyard Playhouse, Woodland Hills, CA. (You’ll be given the exact address when you make your reservation).
WHEN: May 13, 14, 20, 21, 2022. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.
ADMISSION: Suggested donation $25.00.
CONSUMER ADVISORY: Adult themes. Leave the kids at home.