Menage a trios

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When you look at the casts of the three plays that Shenanigans Playhouse Productions will mount at MadLab under the title An Evening of Shenanigal Debauchery and Civic Pride, they bear a suspicious resemblance to the cast of your typical MadLab presentation.

Shenanigans' producer, Chris Lane, also holds the title of artistic director of MadLab. He and Andy Batt, who happens to be MadLab's managing director, contribute two of the three Shenanigal works.

And Shenanigans itself shares its name with one of the three evenings of MadLab's most recent Theatre Roulette festival of new plays. Lane calls the MadLab-Shenanigans relationship "Good, legal, incestuous fun."

Previous to his long association with MadLab, Lane "used to self-produce a lot and I kinda got the jones to do that again. It was Fools in the West that really got me thinking."

Fools, local playwright Scott Tobin's 75-minute parody of Sam Shepard, was originally staged in New York more than 20 years ago and serves as the evening's main course.

For appetizers, the two short plays by Lane and Batt date from one of the 24 extravaganzas from a few years back, where all aspects of a production are thrown together in the space of 24 hours. Lane has reworked 69 Right Off the Bat, his one-act about a pair of hit women who use sex as a weapon in their struggle for the same job.

Hands Before Heads, the other one-act, holds a special place in Batt's heart.

"I thought there were a lot more things that could have been honed and solidified in a full production process," he said. "Even though I wrote it in such a short time frame, I had felt it was one of the best things I'd ever written. So I was really excited to have an opportunity to put it up again ... and craft it the way I wanted to."

Prompted by "that study that said men think about sex every 27 seconds or something like that," Batt invents a religion in Hands that outlaws masturbation.

"If men are spending that much time thinking about sex," Batt wondered, "then how much more productive could we be as a gender if we didn't think about it all the time?"

Get to MadLab early enough before the official curtain and you can witness the performance art of the legendary J.J. Kessla. Lane assures us that he "is renowned in every universe, some of which do not even exist as of yet. He generally performs nude but he recently found religion."

So, incest, masturbation and the threat of nudity? Let the Shenanigans begin.

"An Evening of Shenanigal Debauchery and Civic Pride"

When: Jan. 8-17

Where: MadLab Theatre, Downtown