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Review: Happy 9/11! and Other Completely Non-Offensive Tales explores the darker side of human relationships

Anne Evans Anne Evans Review: Happy 9/11! and Other Completely Non-Offensive Tales explores the darker side of human relationships
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Going into MadLab Theatre’s current show, Happy 9/11! and Other Completely Non-Offensive Tales, and not having read too much about it, I thought it was going to be jokes galore at whether or not one should be making jokes about 9/11. Whether adding a ‘never forget’ and a ‘ha-ha’ after seeing 9:11 flash as the time will ever be appropriate. And we do get a little of that in the title play, Happy 9/11! where Steve (Ryan Fannon) has hopes for the day to move past the grief, the sadness, and the worry and become more of a day of celebration. “Just a day when I’ve been given permission to believe that everything’s okay.”

A co-worker who was deeply affected by the events of 9/11 somewhat agrees until the reality of what a day of celebration would be hits her in the face like a cake-wrecks-worthy birthday cake.

Megan Corbin and Ryan Fannon imagine a different kind of 9/11 remembrance in Happy 9/11! Photo by Jennifer René.

That play is the closer, but the dark comedy vein flows through the entire show. The selection of plays really boil down to the raw emotions people have in their relationships with one another. The minimal sets and the rawness of the performance space enhance all of the actors’ portrayals. A few times I was nearly drawn to tears.

In Luke and Charlene Meet at a Really Nice Bar, the story sets up with a couple pretending to be strangers, relaying fantasy lives to each other to escape the humdrum of their day-to-day lives. It’s only when their fantasies are coming to a close that they realize they no longer even know the person they’ve been spending time with.

What if you only let yourself be close enough to one person for a single kiss and then withdrew into the shadows? In Your Kiss Is On My List, the woman with the list (Lauren Yobbagy) does just that. Having felt let down by the subsequent kisses after her very first kiss, she doesn’t allow herself to see the person behind the kiss for who they are and why you would want to be close to them. She sees only the quantifiable, memorable moments of each first kiss she takes. When questioned about why that matters, you think she might reconsider, but instead, she vanishes. It invites you to think about your own relationships and question what is most important.

Melissa Bair and Stephen Woosley explore the role of honesty in a familiar story. Photo by Jennifer René.

Stephen Woosley and Melissa Bair share plenty of tense and tender moments in what appears to be a familiar take on the tale of a cheating guy in Lie to Me. It’s only after a few back and forths that you realize just how many levels of lies are going on and who is lying to whom.

There are some laughs as well. MadLab newcomer Leon Bird-Conliff shines as the sweet Brenny in Helluva Poker Face, as a group of friends try to identify one member of the group’s true personality. Not Funny starts off with a guy receiving what could be a fatal stabbing by his crazy girlfriend who laughs it off with humor… you may find yourself thinking she’s not so bad.

Happy 9/11! and Other Completely Non-Offensive Tales will make you laugh, may make you cry, may make you groan, and will definitely make you think about your own relationships with friends and loved ones. The show is written by Christopher Lockheardt, directed by Andy Batt and assisted by Mary Sink.

Remaining show are: Saturday, March 10 (stick around -this day only- for an extra $3 to see 3 in 30), and Fridays and Saturdays through March 24. All shows at 8pm. Tickets are $12 regular admission, $10 students, or $8 members. Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks are available as pay-what-you-want. MadLab is located at 227 North Third Street, Columbus, 43215.

Head to the show a little early and view the latest Gallery Exhibit – The Young Artists Collective Exhibition, featuring artwork of students from several Central Ohio High Schools.

For more information about MadLab, visit www.madlab.net.

Photography by Jennifer René. Jennifer grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and recently relocated to Columbus. She found her love for photography at a very young age by insistently capturing every detail of her life and those around her with her camera. Jennifer is a lifestyle photojournalist, who carefully crafts each image with the use of light, color, gesture, and composition to communicate a story. More of her work can be found at BeyondSnapshots.net.

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