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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Fruit of Laughter

Photo by Matt Zeher, ZEHERFOTO

A Pineapple-Shaped Show
Browncoat Pub and Theatre
111 Grace St. • 3/22-25, 3/30-4/1
8 p.m. or Sun., 3 p.m. • $8-$15
www.pineappleshapedlamps.org

Photo by Matt Zeher, ZEHERFOTO

They’ve kept us crying in laughter thanks to their sharp-edged wit, full of wickedly odd characters and preposterous hyperbole. From their weekly skits, “Thursday Night Live,” to one of 2011’s most entertaining fall productions, “Cannibal! The Musical” to their silly romps of shadow casting in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” over the past two years, Pineapple-Shaped Lamps has become a household name among Wilmington’s art scene.

This week, in conjunction with Guerilla Theatre, PSL will be carrying on their penchant for exciting theatre, as they produce their first feature-length show at Browncoat Pub and Theatre. Many folks will be on board to bust everyone’s gut in side-splitting hilarity. Cast members like Holly Cole will play a gossipy thespian, as Chelsea Deaner takes on a fame-hungry actress, while Rachel Helms brings a chirpy stage manager and Ben Henson creates a stubborn but lovable writer. Also making appearances will be Zach Pappas—who won encore magazine’s Best Thespian 2012 in our annual reader’s poll—John Wolfe, Brett J. Young, Jordan Mullaney, Ryan P.C. Trimble and more.

Simply called “A Pineapple-Shaped Show,” encore talked with Wesley Brown, president of PSL, to find out the hubbub about their latest foray of entertainment.

encore: Tell me about the show; how was it devised?
Wesley Brown: Following the runaway success of last October’s “Cannibal! The Musical,” I met with Richard Davis, founder of Guerilla Theatre and owner of The Browncoat, to discuss our next main stage production. We both settled on the idea for PSL to produce a wholly original, full-length stage show.

In the months that followed, PSL strove for unprecedented levels of collaboration. This show, which we chose to call “A Pineapple-Shaped Show,” will incorporate the 30-plus active members of our local troupe. From the beginning, we spoke about how to push the limits of what the Browncoat’s stage was capable of handling, both technically and narratively. Our finished product is a telethon-themed play, which depicts PSL as a roving comedy troupe in search of a home. If they can raise enough money, the eager comedians can move into an abandoned television studio. With the help of an anxious television executive, Pineapple-Shaped Lamps mounts a wild variety show to raise the money they need. Viewers get to peek behind the scenes as the gang tries to control the hilarious disasters that befall the telethon.

e: Who wrote it and what was your inspiration?
WB: Keeping with the collaborative spirit of the project, head writer Alex Marden assembled a team of PSL’s own writers to brainstorm this production. The initial telethon concept was pitched by Devin DiMattia. To complete the final draft, Alex edited contributions from Devin, Ben Henson, Jordan Mullaney, Zach Pappas, Ryan P.C. Trimble and Zack Torres.

We talked about a lot of movies and plays while we developed this show, including “UHF,” “The Muppets” and “Noises Off.” Ultimately, we tried to create something original, something that spoke to our own experience. “A Pineapple-Shaped Show” is about the challenges of working with your friends, trying to be creative in a commercialized culture and being threatened by a megalomaniac brandishing a laser gun.

e: Considering it’s PSL, we expect comedy. Are you producing ground-breaking drama, too? (Or mystery? Or horror!)
WB: “A Pineapple-Shaped Show” is the kind of zany farce you’d expect from us. But there’s also a strong thread of drama running beneath all the absurdity. Our biggest goal, above all else, was simply to make sure the audience was always engaged, so we’ve tried to weave more complexities into this show, using everything we’d learned from “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and “Cannibal! The Musical.” We’ve fleshed out our characters a little more. We’ve incorporated a few moments for audience interaction. We’ve tried to build a more complex narrative, with lots of running jokes and subplots to reward those audiences who pay close attention.

e: What can we expect of the set? Any surprises?
WB: The set itself has become a joke about Pineapple-Shaped Lamps … The Browncoat Pub & Theatre has been very generous over the last two years, inviting ujs to perform our sketch comedy show “TNL,” our shadow casts of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More with Feeling,” and other shows. But the Browncoat’s robust production schedule has always meant that—with the notable exception of “Dr. Horrible” and “Cannibal!”—we often perform on other production’s sets. We can tell you from experience: It’s really challenging to make a bus station look like a conference room. For “A Pineapple-Shaped Show,” we chose to embrace that weird sense of dislocation. The telethon takes place on the set of TV’s hit crime procedural, “Sexy Morgue.” During the show, we’ll struggle to make an autopsy room suit the various acts we perform.

e: What’s been the most grueling aspect so far?
WB: Trying to mount such a wildly complex project was a huge task, but the biggest challenge so far has been breaking down the story—making sure we’re all on the same page about when characters learn certain details and understanding the character arcs. We’ve never tackled a story this dense before, and we’re eager to see how audiences will respond to our work.

e: Are you folks hoping to continue writing feature-length plays? And what else in 2012?
WB: Right now we are focusing on completing our trilogy of main-stage shows; we set a huge bar for ourselves with the success of “Cannibal!” and “Dr. Horrible.” The goal is to exceed everyone’s, including our own, expectations. After this we have plans to shift our focus to our sketch comedy. We have improved a lot over the past few years but every season, we set higher goals for ourselves. We are already writing a completely original musical finale for this season on May 3rd. We are also going on tour this summer across the east coast of the United States. PSL has been booked for shows from New York City to Miami, and we have many local shows scheduled across NC. A lot of the next couple of months will be spent fund-raising to make this tour possible. As for the rest of 2012, who knows what the future holds!

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