For its first Second Stage production in more than a year, Olympic Theatre Arts is exploring new territory by mounting “In The Sawtooths,” a two-act comedy/drama by Dano Madden. First-time OTA director Colby Thomas noted there are hundreds of plays about relationships between women and men and women, but many fewer in the genre he calls “bromance” — relationships between straight male pals.
“It’s extremely like ‘Stand By Me’ grown up,” Thomas said. “It’s a coming-of-age tale — three men trying to have one last big adventure — and how they come to terms with each other, their personal hang-ups and their flaws.”
OTA’s Second Stage productions have minimal sets and lower expenses than Main Stage offerings but the same high quality in material and actors that OTA audiences have come to expect, Thomas said.
Darin (Sean Peck-Collier), Oby (Zach Moorman) and Nellie (Jeremiah Paulson) are three friends with very different personalities and outlooks on life who, for the past eight years, have made an annual camping pilgrimage to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. One’s already divorced and another has a child, so their lives have gotten more complicated.
“Darin is a true outdoorsman who’s always ready for an adventure — his pals call him ‘Mr. Adventure.’ Nellie is a rocker and lives a dirty rocker lifestyle. Oby is a school teacher and is self-described as ‘the most boring’ one of the group,” Thomas explained.
“A really traumatic event happens to one of them and he has a complete breakdown. One of the three doesn’t know how to express his grief for his friend, so it’s how they band together in grief on one last trip to the Sawtooths.”
The play is told in flashbacks to the past and in the present, leaving the audience guessing at the end if the men will maintain their friendship.
“It’s very much a narrative, the men and their stories,” Thomas said. “I think it gets us to acknowledge, yeah, there are a lot of complicated emotions and relationships between men that are not so easy to grasp.”
Thomas noted the Northwest flavor of the play makes it feel very local. “And I think anybody will find a character that’s an archetype of someone in their lives — we all know that person,” he said.
Paulson, Moorman and Peck-Collier are all in their mid-20 and are experienced actors, having performed with the Port Angeles Community Players and OTA.
“They are a director’s dream,” Thomas said. “I just let them go and don’t have to micro-direct. It’s fantastic just winding them up and letting them go.”
Also helping with the production are Amanda Tait, lighting design, Courtney Thomas, props and costume design, and Colby Thomas, sound tech.
A preview performance is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, with a “give-what-you-can” admission. Performance dates are at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9-10 and 16-17; at 2 p.m. Aug. 11 and 18. Admission is $10 at the door only.