Asheville – NC Stage is alive and well, bringing the audience a full-of-surprises comical production of The Book Club play by Karen Zacarias, one of the inaugural resident playwrights at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. The cast draws you into their lives as you meet the various personalities who are attending the book club meetings. No mealy-mouth individuals are on stage here. You get to know their characters, such as the letter-perfect Ana, played by Neela Munoz, who tries to control her adoring husband Rob, played by Bill Munoz, as well as a former boyfriend, a man-of-surprising revelations Will, performed by an NC Stage beloved Scott Treadway (seen in the hilarious Jeeves comedies over the years), and outspoken Lily, played by Katelyn Bowman, who is making her debut at NC Stage with this production. It is indeed a cast of characters.
When Ana’s cherished group becomes the focus of a documentary film, their previously predictable discussions turn into pandemonium in front of the inescapable camera lens; the plot continues. When the beloved Book Club encounters a provocative new member, Alex, played by Derek Garza who makes his debut at NC Stage, and some surprising new book titles are suggested for reading, Ana’s dismay only grows. Jen, played by Marthaluz Velez, adds to the club’s mix as her needs unfold. Books should be limited to only 400 pages, not 1000 pages, as War in Peace. When book titles, such as The Da Vinci Code, The Return of Tarzan, or Twilight, are suggested, Ana is horrified. She must be in total control of “her book club.” Relationships unfold in surprising ways, allowing calamity to triumph. This buoyant comedy has everyone, who is watching, laughing and reflecting—as the theater is known to do. One does learn that “indeed a book can turn you upside down.”
It is astounding that every performance this month of The Book Club by the NC Stage can take place live on Zoom with actors performing the play from their homes, in some cases from other states. “Theatre is often described as a collaborative art form,” says Charlie Flynn-McIver, artistic director of NC Stage and director of The Book Club Play. “And that collaboration includes the audience. So we wanted to do something live and immediate with a sense of risk. You can’t get that with a recording.” Many favorable comments have already been received since opening night, such as “The play is magical” and sprinkled with wit and surprise. The audience watching this play is from all over the United States—as far away as Maine and Oregon.
Many today are members of local book clubs, thus they are familiar with the interaction that takes place at such a meeting. They may even participate—or want to participate—in one of Malaprop’s Bookstore’s many focused clubs. The store is offering a 10% discount on book club selections when you order online now through the 31st. This play will undoubtedly bring to mind books you have read or discussed over the years, as well as childhood favorites. Which was your favorite book as a child? Sounder, Old Yeller? Moby Dick? Watching a zoom play isn’t the same as going to the actual theater, but given the situation we all find ourselves in with COVID 19, NC Stage Company is bringing the theater and the stage into your home very effectively. The actors draw you into the characters they are portraying, their private thoughts, and leave you amazed at how much you can enjoy a zoom play with live actors, when in actuality you are in front of your computer, nowhere near an actual stage. Charlie Flynn-McIver has found a masterful, creative way to let the theater continue to be alive during a pandemic with all the social distancing.
The Book Club Play runs from Wednesday, March 3 to Sunday, March 21, beginning at 7:30 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 2 pm. on Sundays. Tickets are on sale now. Tickets are $25 and are sold per household. They can be purchased online at ncstage.org or by calling 828-239-0263.
The home of North Carolina Stage Company (Charlie Flynn-McIver, Artistic Director) is located at 15 Stage Lane in downtown Asheville and has been producing professional performances in its 125-seat theatre since 2001. Over the years they have brought many stimulating, entertaining, provocative and challenging plays to Asheville. NC Stage has been twice recognized for artistic excellence by both the prestigious American Theatre Wing and the North Carolina Theatre Conference George A. Parides Award. It continues its commitment to artistic excellence, intellectual exploration and education during the 2020/2021 Season. For information on upcoming productions, educational opportunities and much more call the theatre’s boxoffice at (828) 239-0263 or visit ncstage.org.