The year is 1965.
In Queens, New York, Pope Paul VI is visiting the city for the very first time.
That’s the set up for “The House of Blue Leaves,” the latest production from The Edge Theatre, a comical farce that juggles black comedy with some intensely serious moments.
The show will be running at The Edge, 1560 Teller St. in Lakewood, through Aug. 11. Performances will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m.
“This is a very interesting play, that explores the price Americans pay for fame and their obsession with it,” said director Scott Bellot. “There’s also a precursor here to something that we see more and more — people doing something infamous to be famous.”
The story focuses on Artie Shaunessy (Tom Auclair), a songwriter who spends his days working at a zoo and his nights playing piano in any and every run down dive that will let him tickle the ivories.
Artie lives with his wife, Bananas (Missy Moore), a manic depressive destined for a mental institution called The House of Blue Leaves. As if Artie’s life was complicated enough, he has a mistress who lives on the floor below his, and a son who has gone AWOL from the Army with a bomb to blow up the Pope in New York City.
Artie’s only hope of salvation lies in an old school buddy — now a Hollywood bigwig — who is in town visiting, and may be able to get Artie out of the city and on the road to fullfilling his dreams.
“The nice thing about working at The Edge is you’re able to perform stuff that you probably wouldn’t be able to do at any other theater,” Bellot said. “We get to do some really exploratory works, and this definitely is in that wheelhouse.”
Moore described the show as one about dreams, and the different forms they take — big dreams, small dreams, visions and nightmares.
“It’s also almost Shakespearean, because there are no clear winners or losers,” she said. “It’s just about life.”
Moore said that in the play Bananas is “crazy” in a more general sense of the word, but she and Bellot decided to get specific, and give her manic depression with bouts of agoraphobia.
“During that period of time there wasn’t a lot known about manic depression, and people were just institutionalized and given shock-treatments,” Moore said.
The role of Bananas is one of the more challenging roles Moore said she’s tackled, but the experience of getting to know the character has been an extremely rewarding one.
“I’ve been very, very blessed with the amazing cast of actors in the show,” Bellot said. “Since Artie is a piano player, Tom (Auclair) spent six months learning how to play piano so he could do it for the show.”
Both Bellot and Moore said audiences can expect a wild ride from the show, one that will take them through the gamut of emotions.
“You should come in expecting a comedy, but don’t be surprised if you leave the theater crying,” Moore said.