Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2009, 7:05 pm
Customer, store manager go to war in RTC's 'Hate Mail'
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By Jonathan Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chrissie Hynde sang that it's "a thin line between love and hate."
Jeff De Leon and Stephanie Burrough star in the Riverbend Theatre Collective production 'Hate Mail,' which opens Friday, Aug. 21, at the Village Theatre in Davenport.
While the second season of Riverbend Theatre Collective is its "Season of Love," it closes with the biting comedy "Hate Mail" by Bill Corbett and Kira Obolensky.
"It's so much fun to watch these characters make each other's lives a living hell," Allison Collins-Elfine, RTC's producing artistic director, said this week. However, she added, the characters come close to something like love.
This two-person comedy is both co-directed by and features veteran Q-C actors Jeff De Leon and Stephanie Burrough. "Hate Mail," which calls itself "a comedy alternative to 'Love Letters,'" tells the story of Preston, a spoiled rich kid who meets his match in Dahlia, an angst-filled artist.
The Twin Cities Reader said the playwrights "drip sardonic, hilarious acid from their pens, picking apart their characters with enviously articulate and explosively funny letter-grenades."
Dahlia is the assistant manager of a tourist-trinket shop in New York City, and Preston lives in Minneapolis. After he buys a snow globe from the shop, he writes a complaint letter to Dahlia, saying it's defective and he wants a refund. She declines to give one.
"They keep writing back and forth, and it keeps getting nastier and nastier," Ms. Collins-Elfine said. "It spins from these two strangers who meet over this weird circumstance, and they start kind of becoming friends, like pen pals."
"It's so funny because you watch their lives change as they write back and forth," she said.
All of the play's dialogue is from their letters, just as in the famous A.R. Gurney play "Love Letters." "Hate Mail," which premiered in 1996, contains strong language and adult subject matter.It is a favorite play of Mr. De Leon, the artistic director of ComedySportz in Rock Island, who has been friends with Ms. Collins-Elfine for more than 20 years. They went to Moline High School together, and when she started Riverbend in 2008, he really wanted to do this show, she said.
"He was kind of looking for the right company to do it, the right space," Ms. Collins-Elfine said.
At the renovated Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport, RTC has found a niche in presenting small, emotionally powerful works, she said. Its last show was the critically acclaimed two-person musical "The Last Five Years" in June.
"What we realize we really do well is with shows that the audience can focus on how good the performances are, not all the flash," Ms. Collins-Elfine said. Financially, it's also easier to do smaller shows with little in the way of sets, props, and costumes, she noted. As at New Ground Theatre, the actors are paid.
Ms. Burrough was featured at the Village Theatre in May as Helen of Troy in the Prenzie Players' "Trojan Women." Last summer she played six parts in RTC's production of "As Bees in Honey Drown."
If you go
-- What: Riverbend Theatre Collective's "Hate Mail."
-- When: 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday and Aug. 27-29.
-- Where: Village Theatre, 2113 E. 11th St., Davenport.
-- Tickets:$10 at the door. For more information, visit www.riverbendtheatrecollective.com.