The course of events that transpire at the “world-famous” Soady family deer camp on a November evening in 1989 range from hysterical to utterly mystifying.
From the beginning we know that the nature of Jeff Daniels’ comedy “Escanaba in Da Moonlight” has all the qualities of a tall tale, as told by the patriarch of the family, Albert Soady (Andy Donlon).
Whether the audience is inclined to believe the tale or not, they are certainly in for a lot of laughs during this performance produced by the Thingamajig Theatre Company at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, which opens on March 16.
For the men of the Soady clan, opening day of deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula is the most anticipated day of the year, “like Christmas wit’ guns.” These “Yoopers” take their buck huntin’ seriously, traditionally with plenty of homemade sweet sap whiskey and lard-laden pasty pies.
The story opens with Albert (Andy Donlon) awaiting the arrival of his sons Reuben (Tim Moore) and Remnar (Skip Wee), and friend Jimmer (Dave Armbrecht), whose recent weekend-long UFO abduction resulted in a drastic enhancement of his eccentric personality.
Reuben Soady, at age 35, arrives at camp determined not to become the oldest Soady in history to never have bagged a buck, even if that means “bucking” tradition. He opts not to bring the pasties, instead bringing jars of a good-luck potion made by his Potawatomi wife, Wolf Moon Dance. This break in Soady family custom upsets his brother, Remnar, who already considered Reuben unlucky.
When Jimmer arrives at camp he hilariously ushers in a series of strange events, including his truck catching on fire and driving away by itself, Albert’s whiskey turning into sap, mysterious eerie noises, and culminating in a group sighting of a perplexing “bright white light.” When dazed DNR Ranger Tom (Mark Brown) shows up explaining he thinks he’s seen God on the hunting ridge and later, when Reuben appears to be possessed, the Soady clan comes closer to considering that Reuben might really be cursed.
Throughout the physical humor and absurdity of the story there certainly runs a vein of truth. The hunting traditions of the Soady clan extend beyond simply providing their family with venison, coming close to the status and importance of a religious rite. The ritualized hunt bonds family and generations, making it all the more important to Reuben to break his bad luck streak and bag a buck.
“Escanaba in Da Moonlight,” presented by the Thingamajig Theatre Company, plays March 16–April 1 at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.
On opening night, March 16, doors open at 6 p.m. for a free champagne toast, hors d’oeurves and live music in the art gallery. Tickets opening night are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.
The show runs at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Doors open an hour early for live music and drinks in the art gallery before the show. All other tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.
The show is appropriate for ages 13-plus.
Tickets and showtimes can be found at www.pagosacenter.org or by calling 731-SHOW.