The Fremocentrist.com Art Inventory

Bunzel Brings ‘63 Trillion’ & Ziman Stages It, At WofL

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 19 October 2017

 

At West of Lenin, Oct 20 - Nov 19, 2017, a stellar cast delivers a boardroom comedy.  Produced by Sandbox Radio

At West of Lenin, Oct 20 – Nov 19, 2017, a stellar cast delivers a boardroom comedy. Produced by Sandbox Radio

On October 20th, ‘63 Trillion’ begins a month-long run in West of Lenin (WofL) theatre.  It may sound like there’ll be plenty of time to pick-up tickets before the show closes November 19th, but expect this to be a hot ticket – going fast!

‘63 Trillion’ is the first full-length play produced by Sandbox Radio, a company known for creating sell-out variety shows featuring well-connected, highly-regarded local talents.  Sandbox, in association with Mud Bay Partners, has brought us a comedy by award-winning playwright John Bunzel, to be directed by another accomplished theater veteran Richard Ziman.  In chosing Bunzel’s play, Ziman said, “John is always entertaining.  He creates crowd-pleasing characters.  Subtly witty.”

‘To Love And Hate Them’

To top the bonanza that Sandbox has created with this staging of ‘63 Trillion’ is its spectacularly stellar cast.  “This is a great opportunity for all of us.  The characters [in ‘63 Trillion’] are people in their third quarter of their lives.”  Bunzel’s play demands a high caliber of acting and staging, and Ziman took the opportunity to cast seven of Seattle’s greatest, veteran comedic actors – ones bringing tremendous experience and ability – to the realization of this ensemble piece.

“I intentionally cast likeable actors,” Ziman said.  He didn’t have to audition for this production.  Instead, he reached out to the greatest actor he could for each part, based on his considerable knowledge of their past works.  For this production, audiences can enjoy the incredible talents of:  Amontaine Aurore, Jason Marr, David Gehrman, Terry Edward Moore, Peter Jacobs, David Pichette, and Charles Leggett.

'63 Trillion' staging in Fall 2017 at WofL, director Richard Ziman and Playwright John Bunzel.  Photo by John Ulman

’63 Trillion’ staging in Fall 2017 at WofL, director Richard Ziman and Playwright John Bunzel. Photo by John Ulman

Ziman sought actors able to get beneath the scathingly dark humor of the piece, and able to be transparent, so the audience can, “look through to the humanity of these people.”  As he observed, “You need to love and hate them.  To love and understand them.  Everything we see on stage, it speaks to something inside ourselves.”

“We all understand greed, envy, lust,” Ziman said, “We’re opening a door on that stuff.  We feel for them as they are walking off a cliff like lemmings.”  The play deals with finance, and capitalism as it runs amok.  “Capitalism, when it goes bad, it brings on uncontrolled greed.  It needs to come with a sense of morality, and certainly a conscience.  The people we are watching [in ’63 Trillion’] are not working with a conscience.”

‘Ripe for Satirizing’

Ultimately, however, “a dark comedy has to be entertaining,” Bunzel acknowledged.  “Or it is pedagogic,” Ziman added.  Both the playwright and the director agreed that the comedy takes first place, and they’ve collaborated with a cast able to make it so.

“It’s not political,” Bunzel explained about his work, “It’s about money.”  Bunzel has ‘met’ his characters.  “I work in finance,” he said, “I started working in movie finance.  Helping out entertainment people with their finances.”

In ‘63 Trillion’, the story reveals an industry, “ripe for satirizing,” according to Bunzel, “It’s terribly funny.”  Based on his first-hand observations, Bunzel wrote this dark yet humorous look at what happens when desperation and frustration overcome good sense and the will to do the right thing.  “In the most serious crisis,” Bunzel asks, “what are the choices we make to survive?”

In rehearsals, for '63 Trillion', David Pichette, director Richard Ziman, Charles Leggett, Terry Edward Moore, and David Gehrman.  Photo by John Ulman

In rehearsals, for ’63 Trillion’, David Pichette, director Richard Ziman, Charles Leggett, Terry Edward Moore, and David Gehrman. Photo by John Ulman

“It’s about human nature,” explained Ziman.  The characters are, according to the director, “at the very top of the economic food chain.  The 1%.”  The story, and comedy, of ‘63 Trillion, “is not a depiction of reality as we know it.  It is at the most extreme.”

‘Grow, And See What Happens’

In some ways, Bunzel created an almost prescient play.  He wrote ‘63 Trillion’ in reaction to the 2008 crash, and staged it first in Los Angeles, where he lives now.  He took it through workshops and readings before the premiere in L.A., but he still welcomed this opportunity to restage it and collaborate with Ziman on it.  “Richard and I go back,” Bunzel explained.  The two were classmates at Juilliard, and Bunzel said, “Richard was in my first play.”

“I love doing new plays,” Ziman said, “in part because we can improve upon what is done before.  We can grow and see what happens.”  Bunzel acknowledged that this production gives the play new ground in which to expand and transform.  “I thought it was important to take it to new places,” Bunzel said, “I think Richard has an understanding of my material.  It’s invaluable.”

“One of my strengths as a playwright – I trained as an actor,” Bunzel observed, “I write for the actors.”  Still, he acknowledged the process of having others read and perform his work.  “More than 90% of the time I know what is funny,” he said, “but I’m still surprised at what the actors find.”

A scathing dark comedy now appearing in Fremont, for one month only!

A scathing dark comedy now appearing in Fremont, for one month only!

‘A Living Thing’

“In a comedy,” Bunzel observed, “the play is not fully realized without the audience.  With them, it becomes a living thing.”

“As a theater person, I care a lot about the audience,” Ziman said, “they are the reason that we are here.  We give them credit for being willing to understand what we are doing.”  With the sets, the dramaturg, the actors, the lighting, the cast and crew, “we are trying to illuminate a dark corner,” and Ziman welcomes the audience, which provides the final but equally important part of the production.

Ziman and the other Sandbox Radio producers deliberately chose to bring ‘63 Trillion’ to Fremont, partly for the sake of the audience.  “We picked West of Lenin for this production,” he explained, “we believe this is where ‘63 Trillion’ belongs.  To take advantage of the vibe of Fremont and West of Lenin.”

“It’s a neighborhood where you can go to dinner before, drinks after, and enjoy a show in between,” Ziman observed.  Plus, at WofL, audiences can enjoy a fundraising art show in the lobby during the run of ’63 Trillion’, called ‘Fou D’Etat’ (Champagne of Boors,) an installation of fake art by Dan Tierney, with proceeds from art sold going to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Purchase tickets now for ‘63 Trillion’, before word gets out and seats can’t be got.  Tickets cost $25 general, in advance, or $30 at the door (when available.)  Purchase tickets through Brown Paper Tickets, for 7:30p performances Thursday – Sat, or 2p Sunday matinees – with a special industry night being held Nov 13th.

Take a look inside this boardroom comedy, to see a cast of actors at the peak of their talent and skill, take on a story about the utter collapse of their character’s inflated dreams.  See ‘63 Trillion’ while you can!

 

 


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©2017 Kirby Laney.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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