TheatreLAB’s Urinetown mixes political commentary and potty humor into a campy musical delight.
TheatreLAB’s current production, Urinetown, is a comedic commentary on capitalism and corporate corruption. The musical, at TheatreLAB until December 28, is set in a dystopian future after a terrible drought brings civilization to the brink of collapse.
In Urinetown, a single corporation controls what remains of the world’s water supply, and abuses their monopoly to juice every penny they can out of the surviving population by making citizens pay to use public bathrooms. Any poor fool caught taking a bathroom break outside of a government-approved latrine are sent to a mysterious location called “Urinetown” as punishment.
“Urinetown is about what happens when corporate greed supersedes the will and best interests of the people.” said the play’s director, Matt Polson.
This production is part of TheatreLAB’s seventh season of plays. This season’s themes revolve around power and privilege, and the way they relate to issues like climate change and gender inequality. These are serious themes, and many of the other plays in this season have had morbid tones that are far less absurd than the campy black comedy of Urinetown. In fact, according to TheatreLAB’s Founding Artistic Director, Deejay Gray, Urinetown was chosen as a deliberate juxtaposition to some of TheatreLAB’s more serious productions.
“Doing Urinetown during the holiday season felt like a fun time to remind people that things may be rough, or challenging, or difficult, but you can still have a good time while you process it all,” said Gray.
The play is in the midst of a five-week run, which is remarkable due to its smaller-than-average cast. Usually a production of Urinetown features 15 to 30 cast members. TheatreLAB’s production doesn’t even meet the lower end of that range, including only 13 actors. This led to TheatreLAB’s production team making few original tweaks to the script, as well as staging borne of “creative necessity,” according to Polson.
“Right away, we knew that we were going to have to approach this is a very different way,” said Polson. “The main priority [when casting] was almost that they could act and sing, as well as play their instrument.”
Many of the characters double as musicians, and have to sing, dance, and play simultaneously during the musical numbers. The show’s music director, Travis West, even makes appearances as side character “Officer Barrel,” and the stage is ever haunted by a nameless prisoner/drummer (played by Joe Lubman), whose constant presence is explained at the beginning of the story with an original addition to the play’s script.
The overall effect is a hilariously memorable spectacle that’ll take your mind off all your troubles — at least while the play is taking place. “It will make you pee your pants with laughter,” said Gray. “You will leave the theatre thinking about all the things you forgot were troubling while you were spending the time enjoying the show.”
TheatreLAB’s production of Urinetown opened on November 21, and has performances scheduled every weekend, along with Tuesdays and Thursdays, through Saturday, December 28. TheatreLAB is located on 300 East Broad Street at “The Basement.” For tickets and further info about Urinetown, visit their website at theatrelabrva.org.
Top Photo by Tom Topinka, via TheatreLAB