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updated: 1/17/2018 1:13 PM

'Sex in the Title' brings farce to Wheaton Drama

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  • Wheaton Drama's production of "Sex in the Title," by Naperville playwright George Zahora, takes the elements of a traditional British farce and pushes them further.

    Wheaton Drama's production of "Sex in the Title," by Naperville playwright George Zahora, takes the elements of a traditional British farce and pushes them further.
    Courtesy of Teresa Reinalda

  • Two playwrights are locked in an apartment to meet a deadline but find themselves distracted in Wheaton Drama's "Sex in the Title."

    Two playwrights are locked in an apartment to meet a deadline but find themselves distracted in Wheaton Drama's "Sex in the Title."
    Courtesy of Teresa Reinalda

 
By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald correspondent

The duplicitous lives writers lead, living out their own personal stories while inventing fictional ones for the stage or screen, is played for humorous effect in Wheaton Drama's new production of "Sex in the Title."

The show opens Friday, Jan. 19, for a 15-performance run that continues through Feb. 11 at Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale St., Wheaton.

"These guys are holed up in this apartment. They're trying to write a farce but, for whatever reason, the farce begins to happen around them," said George Zahora, the Naperville playwright who wrote the show.

"It's a farce, a typical British farce, except it's atypical because it's highly self-aware," said Rob Reinalda, Wheaton Drama's marketing head.

"It's a very meta-type show," Director Jay Fontanetta said. "I've directed farces before, but this is the first one that has that element to it."

Having missed a series of deadlines, their agent locks two playwrights inside what Zahora describes as an empty, boring and awful apartment so they can finish their script, uninterrupted.

Of course, interruptions ensue and then multiply.

"There are a lot of doors. Farce is all about slamming doors and people running back and forth," Zahora said.

An information technology specialist by day, Zahora said he began writing after he got involved with local theater groups in his post-college days.

"I wanted to give back. I thought maybe what I could do was write a show that would be inexpensive to produce," he said.

His aim was to create a show that is "fun for the audience, fun for the cast, not a lot of money to produce, and puts a lot of butts in seats."

"Sex in the Title," written in 1994, was the result. The show was produced in December 1994 by the Albright Theatre in Batavia and reprised by Batavia's First Street Playhouse in January 2006.

"When I wrote the script originally, cellphones hadn't proliferated. Cellphones ruin a lot of plots," he said.

That plot snag is solved with a revised script that explains the playwrights' seclusion via extremely poor cellphone reception.

Fontanetta said the show is fast-paced and relies heavily on comedic timing.

"It's pretty consistent maniacal mania," he said of the two-hour, two-act show that features 13 characters played by 12 actors.

Reinalda points to a scene involving a pest infestation as an example.

"The superintendent of the building comes in to fix the bathroom, which is apparently filled with spiders," he said.

Because the show includes adult themes, Fontanetta said it's intended for mature audiences.

"It is a bedroom farce. It is sexual in nature. People end up in their underwear," he said.

A language arts and theater teacher at Chicago's West Belden School, Fontanetta frequently works with area theater companies, including the North Riverside Players and the Theatre of Western Springs.

"I direct a lot. My bachelor's degree is in directing theater," he said.

This is Fontanetta's first show with Wheaton Drama, a group he said he's been interested in working with for some time.

"I've seen a bunch of productions of theirs," he said.

Zahora, who is currently at work on several new scripts, said he has dropped by during rehearsals for "Sex in the Title," but has purposely made himself scarce so his vision for the show doesn't overshadow the cast and crew's interpretation.

"There's always a certain amount of authorial intent. I've tried to make it very British in its aesthetic or spirit," he said. "I enjoy seeing how people bring their own ideas to the show."

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