After more than a year’s hiatus, Dukesbay Productions’ homemade soap opera returns to the intimate theatre with a hoop and a howl!
As the show opens, we are sitting in Perky’s Coffee Shop, just a row or two off the stage floor with the audience an espresso spurt away from the counter so you feel like you’re at a fourth round table of the three in front of the bar.
This is “Java Tacoma – Episode 7: Covfefe is for Closers,” the latest in the series of continuing hilarity.
Not to dwell upon the reason this episode took two years to write, we’ll just tell it like it is and get on with the show.
Aya Hashiguchi, the playwright, actress, co-producer and co-founder of Dukesbay, along with husband and director, Randy Clark, hasn’t been feeling up to par for the past year or so.
Fortunately for her and her family, friends and audience members, the talented lady is doing better of late and is almost back to her energetic self – at least enough so to be able to complete and act in this chapter in the happenings of the family Gonzales and friends.
The show opens, as so many soaps do, with a brief repeat of the happenings in the previous episode, just to bring audience members up to date. Next comes the introductions of characters – and that term takes a double meaning – that is, the members of the cast and the dopey, charming, kooky persona they assume.
Bert and Linda Gonzales are the co-owners of Perky’s. Two of their regulars are Kate Cunningham and Jeri Rockwell, who are the owners of a new shop in Perky’s building called Hollywear, which sells old movie costumes and paraphernalia.
Darren Pettit is a new character who applies for the barista job; Marian LeGrand is a new customer, who happens to be the ex-wife of the building’s owner Peter LeGrand, who wants to sell the historic building to one of the three female tenants for $1 after one wins, of all things, a Karaoke contest.
The story is told with current happenings and things that happened during the years since the building was first occupied depicting the long-gone tenants of the era, who are played by various cast members.
All is played out on the Perky’s set designed by Clark showing the three tables down stage with the coffee bar halfway across the back wall which continues stage left into the unseen kitchen and goes right toward the restrooms. Down left is the entrance to the coffee shop.
Leo Foster does the lighting design; Niclas Olson does sound; Jeffery Weaver does costumes and props; Katie Lappier is choreographer; and Tracy Engels is stage manager.
Clark is so familiar with the characters, he directs his players with the certain knowledge of how they would respond to the events happening. As mentioned, there are flashbacks within the play, which lets the audience experience happenings from past years of previous tenants of the building. When this is about to happen, Clark casually movers his actors to a comfortable spot up or side stage where they become non-people who freeze in dimmed lights, allowing the past events to take center stage with brighter lighting.
Betzy Miller plays Kate Cunningham, the owner of half of Hollywear, dresses like someone who fell into a long-lost closet of stuff after she was doused with glue – it’s a great look and Miller acts almost as zany as she looks. Miller is a terrific comedienne who delivers her lines like they are really her own. Miller’s “ago” character is a Norwegian lutefisk saleswoman who hates her product as much as her customers do.
Susan Kaeka is Jen Rockwell, the co-owner of Hollywear. Kaeka’s Jen is almost as loopy as Kate but in a much more dignified way – both give their characters an eager energy of knowing that anything they want to do to improve their business will work and they will make it a hit. Jen knows she can win the Karaoke contest because she has a much better singing voice than her partner.
Aya Hashiguchi is Linda Gonzales, the voice of reason (sort of) of the trio. At least she tries, however, she easily gets’ sucked into the Hollywear duo’s plans and, frustrated, turns them over to her husband. Hashiguchi does some of the best comic acting she’s done as her “ago” tenant – a Samurai sushi chef who vocalizes her cutlery expertise and almost cuts off her own head – what a hoot!
Malcolm J. West reprises his role as Bert Gonzales. West gives Bert a laid-back, easy way of life, accepting what happens with little worry, except when it comes to his wife’s illness. Bert is the real stable member of the family who realizes that he must hire help since their daughter is away at college and Linda can’t handle as much as she has in the past. Bert tries to get Linda to join the competition to own the building; she’s not sure – Linda doesn’t like to sing in public, however they do a nice job of a duet. West’s “ago” persona is fantastic! He’s a female hair stylist with an attitude!
Jeffery Weaver shows up as Darren Pettit, who ends up getting the barista position just because Darren is so eager to please and shows his knowledge of the work and his great ideas for the shop. He is hired on the spot – Darren gets more than he bargained for with the job, which turns out to be another hilarious turn in our story — what is the young man hiding and when will he come out of the closet and display his unexpected talents?
Jen Aylsworth is Marian LeGrand, who just happens into Perky’s for a cuppa while killing time waiting for a seminar to begin; Marian adds yet another twist to the story and Aylsworth pulls off the multi-faceted parts of her character with aplomb, from casual customer to fine singer to ex-wife to guardian angel.
Roger Iverson plays Peter LeGrand, the owner of the classic building which he wants to unload because…? Aye, there’s the rub! Iverson makes LeGrand a lecherous old man with a penchant for dubious generosity and large women – a man eager to rid himself of his ex-wife to see what better prospects are waiting for him. This Mr. Grinch is really a mean one! But the man can sing and really knows how to sell a number. He’s a pretty good mimic, too – especially when Bert’s “ago” persona gets hold of him and brings out his hidden self.
“Java Tacoma – Episode 7: Covfefe is for Closers” continues at The Dukesbay Theater at 508 Sixth Ave. in downtown Tacoma, above the Grand Cinema Theater through March 18. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Because of the size of the house – about 50 seats, reservations are strongly advised. For more information, go on-line to www.dukesbay.org; tickets may also be purchased at javatacoma7.brownpapertickets.com/.
Dukesbay is the best value for your money in Tacoma theatre. The tickets are only $10 each, which includes coffee or tea and a choice of a couple of kinds of cookies along with a fun-filled evening you won’t be able to see anywhere else. Grab a cup of coffee and join the family –the wait was well worth it.