Conspiracy Theories: Theatre Festival show looks at post-9/11 paranoia

Paranoia might be paramount when the Howmet Playhouse Summer Theatre Festival stages playwright Steven Dietz’s “Yankee Tavern.”
The 2007 dramatic thriller that will run at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2-4 at Whitehall High School is set in 2006, in a deteriorating New York City bar facing condemnation.
The owner, Adam, his fiancee, Janet, and two customers find themselves embroiled in conspiracy theories about what really happened concerning the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
The quartet won’t discuss it to music: The bar’s jukebox, while playing Don McLean’s iconic ballad off loss, “American Pie,” died at the exact time the first highjacked airplane slammed into the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
Tension and confusion already have built. Adam and Janet can’t agree on when to get rid of the bar. And why, Janet wonders, have so many of their wedding invitations sent to Adam’s friends been returned marked “addressee unknown”?
Enter two other people: Ray, who has ideas about how and why George W. Bush “really” got elected president over Al Gore, the “truth” about American astronauts first landing on the moon, the short-selling of airline stocks just before 9/11, whether the planes or something else actually destroyed the towers, etc.; and Palmer, a mysterious stranger who agrees with Ray about 9/11, but who also orders beers two at a time, one of him and the second for an unseen friend; Oh, and he knows a lot of personal information about the other characters.
What transpires goes to the core of the public questioning the veracity and sources of what they read and hear, and their distrust of institutions, especially government. Who is telling the truth about what, and why?
Under the direction of Debra Freeberg, the four-member “Yankee Tavern” cast includes Heath Carpenter as Adam, Miranda Sorensen as Janet, Tucker Curtis as Ray, and Kristopher Arnold as Palmer.
Dietz, who is in the Top Ten of most-produced American playwrights, is not unknown to West Michigan audiences. The playhouse has staged two of his plays, “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” and “The Rememberer.” This coming November, Muskegon Civic Theatre will produce Dietz’s comedy “Becky’s New Car.”
The 2018 summer-stock season is being staged at the high school because Howmet Playhouse, 304 W. Mears, is undergoing a $3.7-million renovation project.
Productions are being presented in the Black Box format, with audiences seated on stage instead of in the auditorium. Capacity is 150. Seating is general admission.
“Yankee Tavern” is being sponsored by longtime playhouse supporter Mike Keenan.
The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs is a sponsor for the whole season.
Tickets and season flex passes are on sale at Whitehall City Hall, by calling (231) 894-4048, and online at
Individual tickets are $21 for adults and $17 for students.

Categories: Theatre

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