Plays about the world of theater often focus on the camaraderie of cast and crew and the joys of putting on a show.
Although it’s a comedy, John Morogiello’s “Blame It on Beckett,” opening Friday (April 1) at Olympia Little Theatre, is decidedly not one of those.
“It’s funny and has wonderful touching moments, but it’s about the dark side of theater,” said Rick Pearlstein, one of the show’s lead actors. “It’s about what happens when the politics get involved and the personalities.”
“Office politics in a drama office is still office politics,” said Kendra Malm, “Beckett’s” director and the company’s artistic director.
Two of the rivals around the office are dramaturges, behind-the-scenes theater folk who assist playwrights, do research on productions and help to shape new plays in production.
Jim (Pearlstein, an Olympia Little Theatre mainstay recently seen in “The Tempest” and “Laughing Stock”) is a cynical and seasoned dramaturge, while Heidi (Jessica Weaver, making her Olympia debut) is an intern excited to have her first real job and hoping to revolutionize the theatrical world.
Malm said those themes caught her attention when she first read the play a few years ago when then-artistic director Kathryn Beall brought it to the theater’s play-reading committee.
“I liked the interaction between the two main characters — the young idealistic intern who comes in eager to change everything dealing with the older, cynical dramaturge.
“The clash between idealism and cynicism really interested me.”
Pearlstein, for his part, was immediately drawn to the role of Jim when he read the play. It’s a challenging one, he said.
“Jim is actually the most technical and complicated role I’ve ever played and has by far the biggest character arc as well,” he said. “As an actor, I couldn’t want more.”
The technical challenges involve lots of long monologues combined with other activities that reveal important details about the character.
“In the middle of monologues, I’m moving stuff around,” he said. “It’s like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. It can be done; it just takes some work.”
But he finds the part’s broad emotional range even more satisfying.
“I have my first breakdown scene,” he said. “I lose it on stage.”
But it wasn’t just the demands of the role that got Pearlstein’s attention.
“The character really spoke to me,” he said. “He’s a complicated guy.”
And Pearlstein can relate to the office politics found in theater, whether it’s the regional theater of “Beckett” or the community theaters of Olympia.
“Things aren’t as happy-happy, joy-joy as a lot of the shows make them out to be,” he said. “Humans can’t get away from politics. There are always power trips and money trips and all of that. Community theater is by no means exempt from that.”
Blame It on Beckett
What: Olympia Little Theatre presents John Morogiello’s backstage comedy about a dramaturgy intern who hopes to better the state of American drama.
When: 7:55 p.m. Friday (April 1) and Saturday plus Thursday-April 9 and April 14-16, with matinees at 1:55 p.m. April 10 and 17.
Where: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia.
Tickets: $11-$15, with a $2 discount for students; available at Yenney Music and online.
Information: 360-786-9484 or olympialittletheatre.org.