The 1950s was the golden age of the tv sitcom: I Love Lucy, Dennis the Menace, Leave it to Beaver, the Honeymooners, Ozzie and Harriet and dozens of others. The Fifties was also the era of the infamous Red Scare, a campaign to root out communists in government, entertainment, education and art.
A new Springer Opera House play by award-winning playwright Topher Payne, Perfect Arrangement, is a certainly a hilarious 1950s situation comedy. The protagonists even wear suits and high-heels around the house. It’s also a play about government overreach and the quest for all Americans to live their lives in peace and security.
In Payne’s comedy, two stereotypical 1950s couples live next door to one another in a Washington, DC apartment building. Among their dinner party guests, their clever banter would not be out of place in an episode of Father Knows Best or My Little Margie.
But like all great sitcoms, appearances are not all they seem. In fact, the four neighbors are gay and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s notorious government witch hunt for communists has given rise to a new threat. Another campaign known as the “Lavender Scare” is launched to ferret out Federal employees considered “degenerate” and the private lives of Americans were suddenly the subject of government investigations.
The two couples in this situation comedy enter two exterior doors into two separate apartments but, once inside, one man and one woman switch homes through a closet door. The couples are able to live happily in this repressive political atmosphere because of their inventive “Perfect Arrangement.”
The story takes a serious turn when one of the men, a State Department manager, is put in charge of investigating fellow government employees.
Perfect Arrangement premiered in 2013 at the Source Festival in Washington, DC. In 2014, The American Theatre Critics Association awarded Perfect Arrangement the prestigious M. Elizabeth Osborn Prize for Best Play by an Emerging Playwright. The play went on to be produced Off-Broadway in 2015 by Primary Stages to glowing reviews. The New York Times called it a “clever canapé of a comedy…Mr. Payne is a deft and witty writer.” The New Yorker said of it “As hiding gets harder, pitch-perfect comedy ensues: slamming doors, strange disguises, preposterous excuses …Eventually, the four must decide whether face-saving domestic lies are worth it, or whether ostracism beats living in fear. In our own era of surveillance and paranoia, their mid-century problems don’t feel so far away.”
Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright and screenwriter. He has written 17 full length plays since 2009. Two of those plays were commissioned by the Springer Opera House, Lakebottom Proper (2011) and the prequel Lakebottom Prime (2014). In 2013, after being named Best Local Playwright in several Atlanta based publications such as The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Creative Loafing and GAVoice, Payne’s plays spread to theatres across the country. Payne has also written three films for The Hallmark Channel, A Gift to Remember (2017), Broadcasting Christmas (2016), and My Summer Prince (2016). Two more Hallmark films by Payne are in the works.
Perfect Arrangement runs April 12-22 in the Springer’s McClure Theatre. Perfect Arrangement is directed and written by Topher Payne and features an all-star cast – Shannon Eubanks, Gina Rickicki, Sara Lynn Herman, Davin Allen Grindstaff, Kate Graham, Jim Pharr and Steve Valentini.
Tickets are on sale now through the Springer Box Office and can be purchased by calling (706) 327-3688, in person at 103 10th Street, Columbus, Georgia, or online at springeroperahouse.org.
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