December 28, 2009, by Joe Nickell, Missoulian
Two old friends go to Las Vegas, get tangled up with strippers and Japanese mobsters, find an empty bank full of money. Hilarity ensues. It may sound like a cross between “Swingers” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” except for this: “Nothing actually happens during the show.”
That’s a surprising admission, coming from Grant Olson, who directs next week’s world premiere of Robert Caisley’s play, “Good Clean Fun,” at the Crystal Theatre.
If physical comedy is your thing, “Good Clean Fun” isn’t your play. But according to Olson, if you’re looking for good, risque humor, the new play by Montana Actors’ Theatre’s resident playwright is more than fun.
“I was crying so hard, laughing as I read through the script,” said Olson. “It cracked me up right from the opening stage directions. It’s just ridiculous how funny it is.”
In Caisley’s play, the two characters – old friends from high school who reunite for a weekend of Sin City debauchery – hardly move from their barstool perches as they share a bottle of tequila and recount their madcap experiences.
“It’s structured as two guys telling a story; they interject back and forth, they barely interact,” explained Olson. “But the dialogue is so fast-paced and funny, it totally works. … Rob has such a unique way of phrasing words. It reminds me of (novelist) Douglas Adams in a way, these weird phrasings and these characters’ voices that have an odd descriptive power. It’s so much fun.”
Caisley, an associate professor of theatre and film and head of the dramatic writing program at the University of Idaho, has already made a name for himself in regional theater for his razor-sharp wit.
The Arizona Republic described Caisley’s play, “Kissing” (which MAT will produce in February of 2010), as “a verbal fencing match packed with laugh lines and the occasional bittersweet revelation.” Caisley’s play, “Front,” won the 1996 Kennedy Center/Fourth Freedom Forum Playwriting Award. He is also a recipient of a fellowship to the Sundance Playwrights Laboratory.
Olson met the playwright last summer, and the two forged a fast bond. When Olson asked Caisley “what kind of small-cast shows he had,” Caisley suggested “Good Clean Fun,” which he had just completed after workshopping it at the 2008 Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, Neb.
Upon reading that script and “Kissing,” Olson suggested that Caisley take the role of resident playwright for the Missoula company.
“We have a commitment to produce his work and he’s got a commitment to having works for us to produce,” explained Olson. “We have always wanted to work on more new works, expand and create new things rather than just reviving old shows.”
The new play is an experiment in more ways than one. Aside from the annual First Night celebration of the arts, downtown Missoula typically isn’t a hub of artistic performances during the last week of the year. But Olson said he’s hopeful that the new show will help change that.
“People are still looking for things to do at this time of year, and this is a fun show that’s only about an hour long, so it’s really something you can do in between other stuff,” said Olson. “In larger cities, this is actually a busy time when people go out to see theatre, so we’ll see how that works here.”
Just don’t bring the kids. The title, after all, is the first joke of the play.
“It’s not family friendly at all,” Olson noted. “It’s raunchy; the language is atrocious.”