Belligerent Q&A, Vol. IX: Wanderlust playwrights Jeremiah Albers and Brad McMurran

Jeremiah Albers and Brad McMurran, playwrights of Wanderlust. You'll just have to pretend this cutline is funny. Try harder. Yeah. There you are. Photo by John Doucette.

This edition of Belligerent Q&A, to a point, deals with the new play Wanderlust, premiering Friday as part of the Dog Days Festival at the Generic Theater Down Under Chrysler Hall.

Wanderlust is the first play written by the team of Jeremiah Albers of AltDaily and Brad McMurran of The Pushers comedy group. Albers, too, did his time with The Pushers. No surprise then that it’s billed as funny. Word is it’s a bit sexy, too.

Before we get going here, please know that there are some adult exchanges to follow. This Belligerent Q&A is the first sit-down interview I’ve done for this feature. It has been edited for length, clarity and, in spots that should be apparent, language.

Additionally, there is a reference below to a Hampton Roads theater production that was given a negative review by Albers at AltDaily last year. The director of the play rebuts Albers review in the comments section at that link, if you are interested in such things.

Anyway, on with the show …

THE PLAYERS

JEREMIAH ALBERS: A playwright, 33, of Virginia Beach.

BRAD MCMURRAN: Also a playwright, 35, of Portsmouth.

Q: A hapless belligerent interviewer, 37, of Portsmouth, who hoped to author a concise blog post before things went a bit off the rails, let’s say, after the second question.

SCENE ONE

(The Colley Cantina, an eatery and watering hole in Norfolk, jewel of Commonwealth of Virginia’s crown. Q, ALBERS, and MCMURRAN sit down for a Belligerent Q&A, a very disreputable sort of interview. Q aims to supply the Qs. ALBERS and MCMURRAN aim to provide the As.)

Q: Just who do you think you are? Please use three examples in your response.

MCMURRAN: I’m the King of Portsmouth. I have close-knit ties with hipsters on Granby Street. And I think it’s safe to say that I am a lovemaker.

ALBERS: I guess that makes me the Archduke of Virginia Beach.  I am somebody who really doesn’t like tourists very much. And I am an excellent ballet dancer.

Q: You have written something called a play. Is that the one where it’s just like TV, but you have to put on clothes, go somewhere, and once it starts you can’t pause it?

ALBERS: Yes, but you don’t have to wear any clothes.

MCMURRAN: And actually this play, you can pause it. We added a TiVo feature. Only during the naked scenes, like when you were 13. It’s kind of like Trading Places, when Jamie Lee Curtis took off her shirt.

ALBERS: It’s like the old VHS tape where you even put in that part where the movie looks worn from having been paused so many times.

Q: How difficult was it for you to bring to the boards a star-crossed tale of a Christian broadcaster who, through charitable activities, faith, and an association with the 22nd president of Liberia, falls in love with mining African diamonds?

ALBERS: I’m going to say it was pretty easy. That play writes itself.

Q: The venue is the Generic Theatre Down Under Chrysler Hall. Is it on the same level as the (Norfolk Mayor) Paul Fraim clones?

MCMURRAN: Yes. I saw them yesterday, and I made out with one of them. … And I’ll be quite honest with you, Paul Fraim is a big part of this show because, if it weren’t for Paul Fraim, we wouldn’t have really good jokes that are mentioned, I think, one time in the show. … Well, we having dancing Paul Fraims that come out.

ALBERS: That’s true.

MCMURRAN: He comes out and is like, “I’ll take your money and spend it on useless (stuff).” One of my favorite parts of the show. Please come out and see that.

ALBERS: I would just like to add that does turn in to a pas de deux with a mermaid.

Q: (Wanderlust is inspired by “La Ronde” by Arthur Schnitzler.) Presumably using scenes in which a revolving combination of characters interact, with one character’s placement in the following scene creating the thread with which you stitch a circular mosaic of love, longing and humor, you explore the secrets of humanity through the local lens of Hampton Roads. What does that thing I just told you mean?

MCMURRAN: I think it’s better than what we wrote. It’s definitely more well thought out.

ALBERS: I think it means somebody read their CliffsNotes, and maybe actually pasted them verbatim into that question.

Q: How does Portsmouth come off in this thing? We’ve been hurt before.

MCMURRAN: I will speak to this, knowing that I am the King of Portsmouth. It comes off swimmingly. There’s never a punch line about crime. There’s never a punch line about being stuck in Portsmouth. I think Portsmouth has always painted itself in a light it should be painted in. It’s pretty much the King of Hampton Roads, don’t you think?

ALBERS: Yeah. They’re number one.

MCMURRAN: I am from Portsmouth. I am going to say that. So if anybody comes in here and jokes Portsmouth besides us, I’m probably going to put a cap in their (caboose).

ALBERS: But Portsmouth is crime free.

MCMURRAN: Watch yourself.

Q: Did the Chamber of Commerce have any notes?

ALBERS: Well, they did blockade us out of the theater that one time.

MCMURRAN: They know we’re going to be a big money maker for them. … I feel we’ve really gotten a little more support than you’re giving them credit for. Wanderlust is pretty much like the new Elizabeth River Ferry. You know, something you ride back and forth.

Q: I saw the publicity photo of the sailor character. Did you know the Navy gives you a whole bunch of shirts?

ALBERS: Yes. Yes we did. But, you know. Who needs it?

Q: Wanderlust promises theatre patrons “a voyeuristic peek inside the bedroom of your neighbors.” Some kind of furniture thing, I assume. Who has the most tasteful nightstand. Look at the storage capacity of that armoire. That sort of thing?

ALBERS: Yes. Pretty much. The whole thing is being sponsored by Haynes. We’re really excited.

MCMURRAN: And Posturepedic.

ALBERS: Yes. Sealy Posturepedic. It’s been really great for us. Every room is like a showroom at Haynes. And at the end of the show we’re having a silent auction, so you can bid on the furniture.

MCMURRAN: You can bid on the used bed.

ALBERS: Yeah. But it is a Craftmatic. Old people will be comfortable.

Q: Regarding a “voyeuristic peek inside the bedroom of your neighbors,” the scene on my street is a little played out. Could you please help me get a peek inside the bedroom of someone else’s neighbors?

MCMURRAN: It depends on what neighborhood you’re in. Say if you’re down in Virginia Beach it’s going to be a … more heavy neighborhood. I don’t know if you’ve seen how spread out in that area it is, but the only thing there is to do is to go to Wendy’s and go to the beach in a Speedo. If you go to Portsmouth, you’ll probably have to duck from the bullets whizzing overhead. And as far as Norfolk, well you’ve just to get some of those big glasses and fit in with the hipster scene I guess.

Q: What I like is that you’re not trading in stereotypes.

MCMURRAN: Come see this play. There are none in it.

Q: Anything to add?

ALBERS: No. I think he hit it. I don’t want to see my neighbors, either.

MCMURRAN: Plus I think there is a law against being a peeping tom.

Q: That’s good. We’ve learned something.

ALBERS: Knowledge is power.

Q: In a cast photo, two members of the company are locked in a passionate embrace outside the Scope, while a quartet of fellow thespians looks on. What did the four spectators do wrong? And what did the other two do right?

MCMURRAN: That’s pretty presumptuous of you to think that two people did something right to be making love right in the middle of Scope. So I think the four that were in the back did something right to not have to make love in front of the fountain – in front of that wonderful architecture called Scope.

ALBERS: Which is aging so well.

MCMURRAN: To answer your question, they probably – I’m not going to say that. I was going to say they could probably lose a few pounds. They’d be fine with that.

Q: And you kind of, in a back-handed way, did.

MCMURRAN: Yes. Of course, I’m very skinny so I can get away with it.

ALBERS: What they did right, I would say, is that they took a pretty decent picture. What they did wrong is that they auditioned for this play.

Q: Brad, you’ve been teaching improv classes for teens through The Muse. How do you get impressionable young people on the right path? By that I mean, how do you get them to avoid mime and popular musicals?

MCMURRAN: I teach them the essentials of life – to live hard, and party fast. I find that that’s sort of the pathway to religious freedom.

Q: The Muse is going to love that.

MCMURRAN: They’ll be fine with that. I’d love to see if I get fired over this interview.

Q: Jeremiah, you’ve done some fine theater criticism for AltDaily. How much better is your play than the dreck you usually have to review around here?

MCMURRAN: This is my favorite question. This is where we get the bad review.

ALBERS: Yes, well, it’s worse, actually, and we did that on purpose. But the sex in our show isn’t done by two dudes playing horses.

MCMURRAN: Although there’s one scene we’re thinking about adding that. We’re having some issues with one scene. That might be the ending we’re looking for. Who knew this … would give us the ending. Equus II: The Return of Love. We’re going to be popular folks. “Come see Wanderlust; they’re haters.”

Q: You both are known for your work with The Pushers. Will Donald Trump’s decision not to run for president put comics and improvisational troupes out of work in 2012?

MCMURRAN: That’s an easy improvisation. Yes. And that is the end.

Q: Anything to add?

ALBERS: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Although I think that some wig companies might be a little sad.

Q: We’ve covered so much ground here. What else would you like to say?

MCMURRAN: Before Wanderlust, I wasn’t a man. This is sort of my turning into a – It’s sort of like Perseus, when he had to go and find his fate. This was that time.

Q: Is that what he did? Found his fate?

MCMURRAN: It depends which way you look at it. Fate sort of found him I guess. Wanderlust sort of found me, too. Although I’m still digging this Equus idea.

ALBERS: Sandy Duncan for president, 2012. Her glass eye will rule them all.

(According to IMBD, Sandy Duncan does not really have a glass eye.)

END SCENE

A (somewhat) more serious craft talk will follow in the near future.

Wanderlust premiers on Friday, June 17, at the Generic, 215 St. Pauls Blvd., Norfolk downtown. The run is from June 17-19, 23-26, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $10. For more information call (757) 441-2160 or visit the Generic’s online reservation Interbot thingy. Patrons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a “responsible” adult.

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