Can I write a romantic comedy without an indication of gender?

Remington & Weasel_Homepage-Slide Show_02

Pygmalion Productions continues its season with Remington & Weasel by local playwright and director L.L. West, directed by Robin Wilks-Dunn, opening April 22.

West said his aim with the play was to write a romantic comedy without an indication of gender.

“I love the old romantic movies – ‘Casablanca,’ ‘The Philadelphia Story,’ ‘Adam’s Rib,’ ‘Bringing up Baby’ . . . and my all-time favorite, ‘Brief Encounter,’” West said. “The characters in these films are smart, funny and endearing. The dialogue is brilliant. Could I write a romantic comedy?

“About the time I was thinking romantic comedy, I happened to be at a holiday dinner hosted by a same-sex couple and I was struck by the absolute normality of the event. A beautiful couple sharing their home . . . they were deeply committed to each other, passionately in love with each other and they were celebrating with friends and family. Celebrating like folks all over the country. Good food, friends, family, bad jokes, political discussions . . . ya know, all very Middle-America normal. I loved it!

“So I thought, can I write a romantic comedy without an indication of gender? Yeah, I thought it was doable. All I needed were funny, smart, endearing characters . . . and snappy dialogue. Thus began my ‘Remington & Weasel’ journey. As with many of the old screw-ball comedies, the main characters are at odds with one another at the beginning of the story and somehow by the end, they’ve fallen in love.”

The two main characters in the play are Chris Remington and Alex Weedle (aka Weasel). Chris can be female or male. Alex can be female or male.

“So there are four possible gender matchings . . . and in my mind it was never a gay-issue play, but simply a love story,” West added. “This is also a play about the crazy world of academia. And so the backdrop for this love story is at a private, conservative university somewhere in Indiana or Ohio. Chris is a popular Intro to Film teacher who is known go off the rails on occasion. Alex is strictly by-the-book and has been given the task of reigning in the loose-cannon Chris Remington. They argue. They snip and snipe. And maybe they fall in love. Maybe.”

He said the play will speak to anybody who’s been in one of those ‘I-hate-you-I-love-you’ kind of relationships. Director Wilks-Dunn said she worked with West to workshop and develop the play over a year ago.

“After directing another show of his, ‘Weyward Sisters,’ I am excited to direct another show of his again,” she said.

She added she appreciates the way the play shows the inside politics of higher education and how people get caught up in agendas without seeing the big picture.

“It also shows how social media becomes an out-of-control beast,” she said.

“I think it will speak to college students as well as adults.  Even though this is set in a college, politics and agendas are rampant in every company and organization to some degree.”

She said the show needs to be seen because people need to be able to observe how quickly social media can blow things up out of context to the point where truth doesn’t matter.  The show stars Tamara Howell and Alexandra Harbold as Remington and Weasel, respectively.

Howell, who is a teacher herself, says she shares Remington’s philosophy about making academic subjects accessible and fun to students. “I find that the more fun my students are having, the more they are learning,” she said. Harbold said “Remington & Weasel” is giving her the opportunity to collaborate with director Robin Wilks-Dunn for the first time, which has been a goal. “I was also really drawn to Remington and Weasel’s banter and dueling as they try to navigate their friendship, pedagogy, politics, all of it,” she said. “There’s a real connection that underpins the battle.”

“Alex, a.k.a. Weasel, is in a state of suspension and flux – she’s trying to negotiate the splintering loyalties she has to her friend, her lover, and her work. I keep thinking of Remington and Weasel as a once renegade duo out of a Western – now they’re older and have parted ways, chosen different lives.  Coming into Chris’ sphere of influence again rattles Alex’s sense of hard-won security and stability.”