Staff Photo: John Bohn Actor Bryan Brendle acts the role of Randall during a performance of the play "Grey Area" by John Ahlin. The play is presented at the Aurora Theater in Lawrenceville.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Aurora Theatre presents John Ahlin's "Grey Area," a "delightfully uncivil comedy" about three Southern Civil War re-enactors who kidnap a loud-mouthed Yankee journalist. Surprisingly, it is the first time this play has been performed below the Mason-Dixon Line.
The first act opens on June 6, 2011, with know-it-all journalist Sherman Farragut (played by Glenn Rainey) reading his syndicated theater column aloud for his radio listeners, bad mouthing everyone and everything he was come in contact with in the past week. By the end of the article, he rips into Southern Civil War re-enactors for their poor performances, calling the entire group "boobs, dunces, stupid" and such. He also announces he is retiring.
As luck would have it, three die-hard Confederate re-enactors, Keith (Bart Hansard), Randall (Bryan Brendle) and Horse (Scott Warren) read the column and decide to plot revenge: to drive all the way up to Pennsylvania to teach this Yankee a lesson.
Two days -- or 29 hours -- later, the men returned battered and bruised to their campsite with Farragut in tow either in Georgia or Alabama. No one wants to give the writer clues about his whereabouts until they complete their mission. They captured Farragut while he was sunbathing by his pool drinking a diet prune and raspberry smoothie.
For the next couple of days, the Dixie residents ask the Northerner to "match wits with the grits crowd" in order to change his perceived misperception of those from the South.
Keith is the brains of the group, who reads constantly and considers himself a Civil War expert goes toe-to-toe with the worldly Farragut to prove that not all stereotypes are true.
During their debates many issues are aired, including racism, slavery, the origins of the Civil War and the Confederate Flag which are still hot topics around the country.
"I thought it was fantastic. It was not what I was expecting at all," Hoyt Tuggle of Lawrenceville said. "I think we all felt better about who we are as a people, all of us. It make us all stop and think. It played to the bigger picture of how divisive we are as a country and how we really need to get over that and move on."
Other audience members agreed with Tuggle.
"I loved it. It was very, very clever," Eileen Barrow of Duluth said. "It still stayed comedic, but it had such a story to tell from both sides."
Her daughter Catherine Barrow added, "There is a different between agreeing and understanding. You can understand where any one is coming from, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to agree with them. Having an understanding and excepting what other people think is a good thing."
This is the perfect time to perform "Grey Area" according to Producing Artistic Director Anthony Rodriguez.
"This is historically a good time to talk about stereotypes. We need for society to engage in civil disagreement," Rodriguez said. "From a political, religious, and sociological perspective, the news shows that we are having difficulty listening to one another in a cordial manner. We hope by poking fun at two immovable forces, we can start to dismantle prejudice and in a sly manner and extol a little virtue of compassion."
Ahlin, the playwright, has won the Virtual Theatre Project's "The Pen is a Mighty Sword" international play competition for this play.
Some of the humor is geared toward an older audience. It helps to know general history of the Civil War for some references and jokes. "Grey Area" runs Friday though Oct. 30. Tickets for Oct. 27 are already sold out.