Story & photos by Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
The life of playwright Leo W. Sears, who penned “Borderline Crazies,” on stage at Lincoln City’s Theatre West through June 2, would make a great play. A Marine Corps veteran, he was critically wounded in Vietnam. When he ultimately pulled through after a touch-and-go five days, he vowed to make the most out of his life.
Making the most has included acting, teaching, producing plays, opening a dinner theater, and co-writing three plays with late writing partner Jack Sharkey. All three of those plays have been gone into production, including “Sorry, Wrong Chimney,” a holiday tale that has previously graced tha stage at Theatre West.
In 2001, Sears moved to Hawaii’s Big Island and started started the still-thriving Big Island Film Festival.
But shortly before his move, he wrote his first solo play, a comedy with a setting that might indicate Sears was already thinking about moving to a tropical island.
“Borderline Crazies,” takes place in a rustic ski lodge in Lake Tahoe, where married couple Ellen and Stu assume they will have a weekend alone. Ellen is hoping the time will revive her marriage to stodgy Stu, who writes books about efficiency and has, over time, become a bit of a pill.
They are surprised when horror author Ira and his minxy wife Monica also arrive hoping to stay the weekend at the cabin, which is owned by the writers’ mutual publisher. The women get along great, with Ellen, played by Candice Hester, looking to Monica, played by Colette Buchanan, for tips on how to put some spice back into a marriage. But the men immediately square off into a testosterone contest and come up with silly ways to determine who stays and who goes.
The intensity of the situation is further heightened when a police officer arrives to report that a snowstorm has closed the roads and an axe murderer is on the loose. Stranded with no phone, no television and no radio, the two writers may end up killing each other before the murderer has a chance to.
The play includes quite a bit of physical comedy, helped by the difference in the statures of Stu, played by Rich Emery, and Ira, played by the strikingly tall Kevin Fanter.
“I just got lucky that that is who tried out,” said Director Wes Ryan, who also steps into the role as the publisher during the play. “They both totally commit to their scenes together and are so fun to watch.”
Fanter and Emery almost literally throw themselves into their roles with such scenes as a wrestling match that is laugh-out-loud funny.
“The play really hit my funny bone when I read it,” Ryan said. “It took a bit for the cast, some of whom have never acted together before, to loosen up, but now they’re really having a good time together and tease each other back stage.”
Ryan said that he likes to use new or seldom-seen actors as much as he can when he is in the director’s chair.
“I really enjoy helping new actors,” he said. “But I also like to keep it fresh for our regular audiences.”
The somewhat small cast also includes Hannah Hester as the police officer who also, during one of the play’s frequent plot twists, arrives as a chauffeur.
Danielle Ryan is assistant director, as well as handling lights and sound, and the stage manager is Donna Morris.
“Borderline Crazies” runs through June 2, with performances at 7:30 pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening and one 2 pm Sunday matinée on June 20. Theatre West is located at 3536 SE Hwy. 101. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for seniors and students. For reservations, call 541-994-5663.