Everyone has been there before: stuck in an automobile while having an argument and doing 70 on an endless stretch of asphalt, or being trapped in a car during a prolonged conversation that you feel will never end. This is precisely what takes place in “Autobahn,” the latest play by Neil LeBute.
On October 14, 2005, David Wheeler, Professor of Theatre Arts at Yuba College will premier the Yuba College Public Events production of “Autobahn,” which was written only last year.
“It’s brand new,” Wheeler said. “This is one of the first complete staging of it anywhere.”
When asked how he felt about directing a new play like “Autobahn” Wheeler said, “One of the great things about doing this job for 30 years is that I can move back and forth. I’m doing Greek tragedies written 2,500 years ago. Then I’m doing a play that’s written in 2004. I think that’s what makes it exciting.”
When one goes to see a play titled “Autobahn,” the appearance of an automobile is expected, yet there is not a single vehicle in sight. The set is very simple-at the writer’s request-and works perfectly with the human emotion the characters of “Autobahn” expel.
Wheeler spoke of the play’s set as being metaphoric, and added that the simplicity of the two characters in an automobile would have been lost if the set was flashy or complex.
“Autobahn’s” dialogue can be racy at times, and is full of pop culture references which should attract a younger audience,” Wheeler explained. “I think that (Autobahn) is a hot play. I think it’s a play that college age audiences will relate to a lot.”
“The automobile has become our parlor now,” Wheeler continued. “Certainly more people, especially young people, their relationships are much more spoken about and carried on in automobiles than they are in the parlor at home.”
Jim Prager, Professor of Speech at Yuba College, plays an overly vocal husband who is in the midst of an argument with his anything but vocal wife, played by Amber Royer in the scene titled “All Apologies.” Prager rambles on about past fights they have had as he tries to win a single battle in the war that is their relationship.
As Prager’s character screams profanities so abrasive they would make a sailor cry, Royer’s character sits in the driver’s seat with facial expressions that produce daggers aimed right at her husband’s heart. The foul words in this scene are used with great effect – which are humorous most of the time and work perfectly in their context.
“Road Trip” is another scene, this one featuring two characters simply named “girl” and “man.” The girl is a young teen who has left school to be with a “man” who is in his late thirties.
Sarah Skinner plays the girl in this scene and does a great job of acting like an innocent teen that has been taken advantage of by an older man, but just when you start feeling sorry for her, you realize that she is the one in control of this relationship. It is intentionally hard to tell if this is a kidnapping that is taking place or if it is just a fling evolving to the next level.
Whatever the case may be, the “man” played by Noah Gillett is about to snap at any second.
Amber Royer does another great job at playing a mute in the scene titled “Funny.” This time her character has just picked up her daughter from what seems to be a drug rehab center. The daughter is in her late teens to early twenties and is full of energy.
Allison Lawrence does a wonderful job at carrying on a conversation with her mute mother. Lawrence’s character accepts nods, glares and gestures as answers to the questions she puts forth to her voiceless mother. The young girl talks to her mother about the friends she made, the movies she watched and the drugs she took while in rehab.
In the scene titled “Merge” a man played by Bobby Cross has just picked his wife up from the airport, looks into her eyes and sees that something is not right. He asks about her trip and learns of events involving his wife and an undetermined number of men in her hotel room.
The husband is quick to ask question after question, learning more and more about his wife’s drunken rendezvous. Janet Frye-Stattmann plays the wife of this, at times, irate husband and responds to the man’s queries with a playfulness that makes you think there is more to this relationship than meets the eye.
“Autobahn” will open on October 14. Tickets are $7 for general admission and $4 for students, seniors, and military. Refer to the campus calendar on page 8 for a complete listing of the dates and time of Autobahn.