Tommy Dugan (played by Michael Fields) is back, living in a ramshackle trailer in the woods. Also returning are his estranged wife Lu Ann (this time played by Zuzka Sabata) and Tommy’s dead mother Dorothy (Joan Schirle.) The new principal characters are Tommy’s callow young companion Lowell (Anthony Arnista), and Bert (James Peck), a self-styled militia leader exiled from the UK. Yan Christian Collazo plays fledgling sheriff’s deputy Manuel, Ryan Musil is the mayor of Korbel, and Bert’s militia co-conspirators are a supermarket manager from Glendale (Andrew Eldrege) and a crafter and mom from McKinleyville (Emily Newton.)
Korbel V begins with Manuel reciting a prologue in rhymed couplets that suggests the prologue to Shakespeare’s Henry V with an assist from Carl Sandburg. It’s the first of several echoes and quotes from Shakespeare and others.
The deputy concludes: “Here’s Korbel, this is fog, and here is sun.” At that moment on opening evening, sunlight broke through the overcast and bathed the stage. How did they do that? (Yes, the line was scripted.)
The action begins with Tommy in a terminal funk: 17 years unemployed, a failed marriage and a pot-grower son who won’t speak to him are bad enough, but now his doctor demands he stop drinking. After a clumsily creative suicide attempt fails, Tommy learns that the Korbel Timber mill is closing and will evict families living in company housing. Suddenly he finds purpose: to go on a hunger strike to save the mill, emulating the hero he saw on the History Channel, “Mohammed Gandhi.”
There are magical moments: Fields and Schirle acting together is irresistible, and Fields delivering Tommy’s final soliloquy is memorable. The principal actors built real characters (especially Arnista as Lowell and Sabata as Lu Ann) and the supporting players were generously funny, particularly Eldrege as one of the conspirators.
Less high-spirited than some past summer shows, this play is well crafted and directed, with the usual comic local references, physical humor, surprise effects and other treats in sight and sound, including music by Tim Gray, performed by Sabata and the band of Maria Joy, Mike La Bolle and Tim Randles.
But I found the two overlapping storylines disappointing, with too little of Tommy’s story and too much of Bert’s (even with its perceptive twist at the end.) Bert’s paranoid rants seemed too frequent, long and unvarying, familiar from weary years of talk radio and Internet rhetoric, except for the copious instances of “wanker” and “bollocks” spewed by this incongruously English character.
“The Secret” in the play’s title refers most obviously to the movie and book of that title about the power of positive thinking that Lu Ann praises. While some in the audience got the reference, I’m not sure why a 2006 self-help fad features so prominently.
At the end of the play it seems the Dugan saga is over—but maybe not. One more dancing Dugan ghost has been added, but somewhere offstage is a next generation. Korbel V: The Secret runs through July 6.
Coming Up Next at the fest: Taken Away, an acrobatic theatre event, opens June 21 for five performances. Clowns Without Borders gets the Prize of Hope on June 28 and a benefit headlined by clown Mooky Cornish on June 29 at 2 p.m. Then Cornish performs at the Blue Lake Center of the Universe party at 4:30.
On July 2, Mad Lab consists of three works-in-progress by Dell’Arte alums: “Camel Camel,” a vaudeville review by Glitter Gizzard, Janessa Johnsrude and Meghan Frank; “Life Lessons with Pat McKensie,” a satirical comedy by Emily Newton; and “La Fenetre,” a clown comedy by Darci Fulcher and Emily Newton.