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Looking for Normal pleads for acceptance

by Lenise Willis

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Roy, played by Ken Ashford, and Irma, played by Gesche Metz, explore the notions of family, acceptance and love in Theatre Alliance’s Looking for Normal. (courtesy photo)

After 25 years of marriage, most couples have their daily hum-drum of a routine down pat. Working together like well-oiled machines, they wake up, get ready for work, make breakfast, send the kids off to school, go to work, come home and repeat. But what happens when one spouse reveals a well-kept secret that throws the family into a tailspin?

Such is the case for Roy and Irma in Theatre Alliance’s Looking for Normal. Roy, played by Ken Ashford, and Irma, played by Gesche Metz, were an ordinary, well respected couple — that is until Roy admits in marriage counseling that he wants a sex change.

Now his wife and two children must learn to cope with the shattering news and decide just what their love means and how far it’s willing to go.

“The jest of the play [written by Jane Anderson] is about acceptance and self love,” says Director Jamie Lawson. “The storyline is just so touching. It’s basically about the theme of acceptance of ourselves and our own nature, the acceptance of others and the acceptance by others of our nature.

“It’s just very well written and it speaks to a lot of people,” Lawson says. “Although it may seem to appeal to only a minority, once you see it, you see it’s basically a very human show. The show really appeals to a wide range of audiences because of the sentiment involved in it.”

In what Lawson refers to as a “dramedy,” the play takes the audience on a roller-coaster of emotions. “There are some moments that are comedic that revolve around the children when the dad tells them the news, and then there are more serious elements that revolve around the adults of the show,” Lawson says.

To complement the mood and atmosphere of the play, Lawson has added a musical score of classical music. “I don’t know of other productions [of Looking for Normal] that have done that,” Lawson says.

“It’s all music that people have heard before, like ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ and ‘Pachelbel’s Canon.’ It just seemed to fit the mood of the show because classical music can deliver so many different moods, and that’s kind of what the show does. We wanted something that allowed the audience to take their own ride and that didn’t have any lyr ics in it to sway them one way or the other.”

The surreal set, created by scenic designer Thad Templeton, is comprised of five doors that serve as every entrance and exit for each actor.

The front door to one character’s house may serve as another door of a different character’s house.

“We try to help the audience understand what’s going on with little clues here and there as far as where we are and whose house we’re in at the time,” Lawson says. “We also utilize a few pieces of furniture to help further establish locations.”

All in all, Lawson says that all audiences should be able to identify with the play in some way, despite what most would think.

“I would expect that most have had some type of situation in their life where they had some news that was hard to share with other people, and they had to have the courage to share so that they could move on with their life,” Lawson says. “I think we can all identify with that in some way or another.

“The journey they take Roy and his family on is very moving in how it’s played out,” Lawson says. “I just have to encourage people to really come out and see it for themselves. It’s very hard to describe because it is so moving. It’s almost like poetry in some places.”

Because of strong language, this play is recommended for mature audiences only.

Jane Anderson is an award-winning American playwright, screenwriter and director who has written and directed several television movies, including Normal, an adaption of her own play Looking for Normal, which starred Jessica Lange and was nominated for an Emmy.

She also wrote the script for the film It Could Happen to You, starring Nicholas Cage, and in 2008 was awarded the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Dramatic Series for her work on the second season of “Mad Men.”

wanna go?

Looking for Normal plays at Theatre Alliance, 1047 Northwest Boulevard, Winston-Salem, Jan. 7-16. Tickets are $10-$14. For more information call the box office at 336.723.7777 or visit www.wstheatrealliance.org.

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