Jeff Goode is one of those people with both ears open. He's written a 10-monologue performance, appropriately titled Anger Box, now in its final run at Club Congress.
"The real problem we have in society is that we have devil people," says Goode from his day job at Disney Studios in Los Angeles, where he's at work on American Dragon.
"The problem, quite simply, is that those people are you or I. How do we avoid the trap of falling in step with evil people?" he asks.
Goode's no stranger to monologues--writing and then letting go of his words as actors digest and spew out their version of his characters. A couple of years ago, Goode's Eight Reindeer Monologues was performed in Tucson by the same company who's handling this new work--Green Thursday Theatre Project. Both productions are heavily character-driven. Sets are minimal--a shopping cart full of urban detritus, a Bible substituting Santa for Jesus, a kitchen table on which a woman pounds out faux hamburger.
"I'm generally going for believable characters, not parodic ones. Parody doesn't do much for us. It's easy to demonize. I try to get a more realistic sense, so I put flaws in their arguments," explains Goode about his 10 characters.
"These are hard roles. If actors play them over the top, it's to protect their own reputations off-stage. That's not what I'm looking for," adds the playwright.
He's yielded control to long-time friend and local director Samantha Wyer, who, he says, completely understands the work, making the situation of his being in another city not quite so difficult. Anger Box has opened not only in Tucson, but also in Washington, D.C., and Boston.
What Goode has entrusted the directors and actors to do is to portray all of our collective lividness.
Brendan Murphy bounds up the three or four steps leading to the tiny stage that's more in the audience than not. What bursts forth is Goode's first monologue. We don't know the details that fuel his anger--something having to do with a Middle Eastern immigrant's success. Murphy spits, "He comes here and already owns the gas station, and I've been working 15 years and own nothin.'" Typical white boy, working class 'tude. He's pissed.
Portraying that anger is what a writer's supposed to do in these outrageous times, says Goode.
"I think the job of the artist, post-Sept. 11, is to be the one that says 'Fuck you, God!' Somebody has to stand up to all this crap. The world is being torn apart by religious extremism," spouts Goode.
"So, it's sort of exploring religion in a world that's made it so preposterous to do so," he adds, referring to the religiosity that run through nearly all his characters.
Anger Box is a mirror of its times. That first monologue was written just after Sept. 11. The rest spilled out the following year.
I asked Goode if he was a lapsed Catholic, dealing with those demons.
"Well, I grew up in a heavily Catholic town. We were basically raised in a generic Protestant church--Baptists without the rituals. I still think today, though, that the basic teachings of Jesus are a good idea. For a long time, I've been horrified how people take good ethics and use them for their own purposes."
Given his background, it's not surprising the characters Goode has birthed. Charon is played convincingly by Brooke Davis: a 50-something, full-bodied waitress attending to those awaiting the decision of whether they'll go to heaven or hell. She explains to the anxious "customers" that if they were good most of the time, they have nothing to worry about. Davis grins at all the right places.
Then there's Susan Arnold's interpretation in the third monologue, Fucking Satan, or Esau Hislope's Santa Worship or Jenny Bazzell's Popophilia, all tightly performed--the latter is a hilarious diatribe about a young woman's obsession to save her virginity for one night with the Pope.
But David Morden's interpretation of Nike, Goddess of Victory, is most memorable: a combination of drag queen burlesque meeting up with good, solid acting. When I told Goode that his Nike character had been portrayed by a man wearing pasty makeup, a white slinky dress--teetering on heels while his wings continually slid off his hairy shoulders--he was not surprised.
"I didn't specify in the script that this is a male or female character. It's the actor's and director's brilliant choice to play it this way. Nike is very butch."
Goode adds, "Theater is very collaborative. If I'm too rigid in the script, then it's only as good as the writing. I don't want to block the creativity of the crew. I enjoy leaving it up to them."
Green Thursday Theatre Project stages its last two shows of Anger Box at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, and Saturday, Nov. 15, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. in the Hotel Congress. Tickets cost $15 or $13 for students.
Call 792-6590 for reservations.