Experience “Night at the General” with Random People at the Mateel this weekend

Joy, sorrow, fear, comfort, hope, despair, birth, death, and weirdness - it's all on the Mateel Community Center stage this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, March 14, 15, and 16.

The ninth annual Random People's Theater Project show, "Night at the General," features 10 short plays with musical and humorous interludes that all take place in a busy urban hospital.

Local writers, actors, musicians, craftspeople, and technicians created the show with the guidance of veteran directors Marilyn Foote, Jenny Edwards and Susan Alexander.

As usual, the plays and interludes cover a variety of moods, episodes, and characters from comic to tragic, with stops at mysterious and bizarre. The hospital setting gives the audience an opportunity to witness major turning points and a wide range of emotions.

Musicians take center stage in the first play, "Certain Songs," written and directed by Jenny Edwards "with help from her friends." A dying patient (Margaret Lewis) requests the hospital choir to sing a Christian hymn that refers to "wretched sinners." The choir has a policy against singing these kinds of songs, and the choir leader (Susan Maples) struggles with her own painful memories to determine the right thing to do.

Actors and singers include Lily Aquarian, Shirley Gray, Tobe Halton, Allison Hendrix, Tanya Horlick, Margaret Lewis, Susan Maple, Maya Quiggle and Kerry Reynolds.

Carl Hanson plays an exhausted and cynical doctor having an extremely bad night on call in the emergency room in the second play, "Transcending Mercy," written by Saxon Roe and directed by Hanson.

When a "code blue" is called, a still-idealistic young doctor (Lliana Babauta) offers to take the call so Hanson can rest, but this puts him in conflict with his boss, the head doctor (Jefferson Parson), who calls Hanson's commitment into question.

Cynthia Martells offers a wrenching portrayal of a woman who made a simple but life-threatening mistake in "Poison Oak Mati," written by Aurora Raiment and directed by Jack Flaws.

Martells' performance brings home both the horror of the victim's situation and the value of living in the moment, and is sure to send a shiver down your spine.

Welcome comic relief is provided by the dilemma of two longtime friends who discover they may have even more in common than they thought as they wait for the births of their first children. Coincidence? Maybe....

Joe Hiney and Dave Gurley play the expectant dads, and Harolyn Salter-Bakur is the delivery room nurse in "Father's Luck," written by Ariel Gladden and directed by Margaret Lewis.

Next, Carl Hanson, the victim of over-preparation for Valentine's Day, struggles to get help from a bored, bureaucratic receptionist (Alicia Hall) for his "Late Night Emergency," in a sketch written and directed by Munson Hallums.

An attractive nurse (Carla Pecora) and two enthusiastic young women (Lliana Babauta and Christy Agustine) only make things worse for this hapless patient.

Following intermission and an opportunity to enjoy snacks at the "Hospital Restaurant," the curtain comes up on "Ward Five," where a woman who thinks she is 13 months pregnant with a goddess is visited by a stranger with a secret and an offer of a much more worldly nature.

Marilyn Foote plays the self-described "Mother of God" and Moss Nipkau is the visitor who may provide her link to mundane reality. "Ward Five" was written by Shirley Gaines and directed by Ann Gowan.

Natascha Marks wrote and performs her heartfelt monologue, "Loss of a Sister," an intimate portrayal of a woman mourning the loss of her best friend and companion, recalling a life of shared joys and sorrows. Agnes Patak directed the monologue.

In "Transformation," written and directed by Dion Santos with the help of assistant director Susan Alexander, a rebellious son (Julian Savage-Taylor) and a strict father (Joe Hiney) find their way back to each other, after the son experiences a mysterious episode, possibly a visit to the afterlife.

Cynthia Martells and Agnes Patak play two frustrated hospital staff members trying to make sense out of the world of electronic medicine and new ideas about health care in "PC, or Positively Counterproductive," written by Marilyn Foote and directed by Moss Nipkau.

A brisk, unflappable consultant (Bailey Barnick) explains what they need to do to transform General Hospital into the "Universal Wellness Center," much to their dismay, while a young doctor (Teamo Gregori) assures them that it's all for the best.

The last act, "Monster," written by Ellen McKaskle and directed by Susan Alexander and Barbara Penny, tells of two very different people grappling with mortality.

A self-identified witch (Harolyn Salter-Bukur) is preoccupied with planning her garden as she waits to be called in for her appointment. When she is joined by fearful teenager (Gardner Boyce) waiting for a CT scan, accompanied by his mother (Laura Sweet), who tries too hard to reassure him, the witch helps the boy by encouraging him to confront his "monster."

The monster (Kirian Spencer) manifests itself as a graceful, acrobatic, but menacing raven-like being. As the boy engages it and gathers confidence, the witch is able to face her own fears.

Many members of the cast as well as other community volunteers contributed time and talent to this year's production.

Susan Alexander and Anne Gowens are the stage managers; John Golden provided the sets, and Josh Golden designed the poster.

Carl Hanson, Joe Hiney, and Bruce Edwards provided props; Margaret Lewis and Rae Shirashi made the costumes.

Joe Hiney and Eric Kay are handling the lighting. Jeanne York is the sound designer and Christy Watson is the sound engineer.

Sandy Tilles, Judy Diaz, and Jenny Edwards are the house managers.

Agnes Patak is the show's photographer, and Munson Hallums is making the video.

Judy Diaz is in charge of the ticket table, and John Christianson will organize parking.

Snacks and beverages are provided by the family and friends of Sarah Stark, as well as the Random People Theater Project's crew.

Random People thanks many organizations and businesses for their help in putting on the production. In particular the Mateel Community Center and Heart of the Redwoods Hospice provided rehearsal space. The chairs come from the Healy Senior Center.

Doors open at the Mateel at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 21 and Saturday, March 22 and the performance begins at 8 p.m. The matinee performance on Sunday, March 23, will begin at 2 p.m. with doors open at 1:30 p.m.

Admission is a $12-$20 sliding scale.


Natascha Marks in "Loss of My Sister" from "Night at the General."