Mo Perry has a steadfast rule: "I don't do theater in the summertime," she says.
So when Christopher Kehoe sent her the script Will Eno's Oh, the Humanity and asked her to participate in a July production, it earned a quick "no." Undaunted, director Natalie Novacek used tech week at the Children's Theatre Company's production of Babe to wear down Perry's defenses.
Once she read Eno's collection of five short pieces, Perry was sold. Something similar happened with Matt Sciple, who rarely acts these acts. It takes the right script, and Eno's piece was that.
Oh, the Humanity and other good intentions runs for the next two weekends at Intermedia Arts, and features the three actors in solo and small-group segments. The staging is minimal, and onstage interaction is kept to a minimum. In fact, even if two or three of them share the stage, their attention is far more focused on the fourth player -- the audience -- than each other.
The meta-theatrical approach and the often-bleak worldview have drawn comparisons to past masters of the absurd. "It's like if Beckett and Steve Martin had a baby," Sciple says.
Oh, the Humanity is produced under the aegis of the Peanut Butter Factory, a name Kehoe "inherited" at last year's Minnesota Fringe Festival. After it was done, he and Novacek wanted to explore producing solo and small-scale works, so the name stayed.
Eno's pieces live in the uncomfortable spaces of our lives. The five pieces in Oh, the Humanity range from a football coach giving a talk about the past, disastrous season -- and sharing as much about his own disastrous marriage in the process -- to a dating service that offers universal answers.
The work is funny, but often in a very real, painful way, says Novacek. "Think of the laughter you sometimes hear at funerals. Often, it's the people who were closest to the person who are laughing."
"There's a 'wow-ouch' balance that goes through all of the pieces," Sciple adds.
All of this creates challenges -- hopefully, fun ones -- for the company and the director, as they've explored and developed each of the pieces. "We've worked a lot at being in the moment with the characters and keeping yourself open. It has to come from the gut," Novacek says.
Oh, the Humanity starts Friday and runs through July 24. Tickets are $10, and can be reserved by calling 612.872.4223