“People are a joy to watch.”
There are many different outlets for anger. You can punch a pillow, scream until your face turns blue, dance, go for a run, write, whatever calms your nerves.
Charlotte Meehan’s outlet is writing, and thank god, because her new play is the perfect blend of smart and funny. The playwright harnessed the feeling of sorrow that festers in the pit of your stomach and created Real Realism, a play that focuses on real-life hardships while simultaneously making you cry tears of laughter.
In Real Realism, five characters are sent to an undisclosed treatment center where they are forced to communicate and tolerate each other while healing themselves with group therapy—sans therapist.
The play is part of a three-play series called The Problem with People. The three plays all represent tragedy, big and small. The first play, Sweet Disaster, was inspired by 9/11. Meehan was living mere blocks away in Lower Manhattan at the time and was so haunted by the memory of that horrific day that she moved to Boston with her daughter and late husband, filmmaker David Hopkins.
Hopkins and Meehan co-founded Sleeping Weazel, a small artist-run company, designed to produce film and theater. The name Sleeping Weazel refers to “dreaming awake” or being in a “productive form of unconsciousness.”
The couple worked on numerous projects together and Hopkins’s spirit is still very present at Meehan’s productions. During Real Realism, the audience is meant to be spying in on the cast through a two-way mirror. Hopkins’s films will be projected on a backdrop throughout the show.
Hopkins was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed in 2004. The second play, 27 Tips for Banishing the Blues, deals with depression, which Meehan was diagnosed with after his death. Meehan calls the trilogy “a long process of healing.”
Real Realism hones in on people and the way they deal with themselves and each other.
“The problem with people is people,” said Meehan. “I find it very funny. People, the human condition, we are a problem. But I find that sort of a release rather than a bad thing. We’re all alive and we’re all going to die.”
If you’re worried that Real Realism may be too serious for a night out, don’t be: Meehan describes it as an epic tragic comedy and there’s no shortage of comic relief. Meehan even made some tweaks to the play for us Bostonians.
After Marathon Monday, Meehan felt like she should adjust her ending.
“I added more love into the play because as much as my plays are philosophical and difficult, I like to think that I’m a romantic and that really, I write plays because I love people,” she said.
While Real Realism is mentally stimulating, it’s also just as entertaining. Meehan has worked with director Vanessa Gilbert before, but this is their first Boston production and they want everyone to feel welcome.
“My goal as artistic director is to create works that are accessible, smart, and funny, and that cross the boundaries between mainstream and avant-garde,” said Meehan.
“I guess I’ve come to a place where tragic and funny are very connected,” she added. “It’s like crying and laughing at a funeral. You have to go back to that place of insistent joy. I feel like I’m in that place. People are a joy to watch.”
Go to the “pay what you can” preview May 30 at 7:30 p.m. and prepare for wildly hilarious human interaction that is so spot-on you can’t help but laugh. 27 Tips for Banishing the Blues is set to start in the summer of 2014, and Sweet Disasterthe following summer.
FRI 5.31.13–SAT 6.8.13
THE FACTORY THEATRE
791 TREMONT ST., BOSTON