Dat der stage at da Sioux City Community Theatre looks mighty fine, dunnit? I swear I ’ave a cabin juss like dat one. You betcha.
Don’t worry; we won’t subject you to reading an entire article written in the way we perceive Northerners talk. But the cast of “Escanaba in da Moonlight” makes it seem like so much fun.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of this play? Well, to be honest, neither had we. It may not have the same recognition as “The Sound of Music,” “Les Miserables” or “Hamilton,” but director Eric Sorensen said “Escanaba in da Moonlight” is still a significant play.
“It’s a hilarious comedy set in Upper Peninsula Michigan and it follows the Soady family at their deer camp,” said Sorensen. “It’s right by Canada so you can expect that they don’t talk quite like how we talk… eh?”
The accents have proved to be quite challenging for the actors. Chad Gaul, who plays the lead Reuben Soady, said he is adapting a little at a time. “This and that” becomes “dis and dat.” He's adding “eh” at the end of sentences and dropping the letter H in the word “things.”
“I even tried doing it on a daily basis since I started rehearsal just to get in the spirit of my character,” he said. “And that’s no easy feat. There are plenty of ‘ehs’ and ‘holy wahs.’”
And the set pieces and costumes reflect that environment. The stage is decorated to look like a cozy cabin with a bunk bed, a rocking chair, a wall-mounted buck head and even an outhouse on stage right. And the actors wander about the stage in camo and flannel with guns settled against their shoulders.
Gaul said he didn’t know much about “Escanaba in da Moonlight” prior to being cast in the Sioux City Community Theatre’s latest production. Although relatively unknown, Gaul said the play is a “hidden gem.”
“I think the hidden gems are the ones to look out for, too, because you might see some gold there,” said Gaul. “Just like the way my character is hunting for a buck, it’s like gold.”
Sorensen agreed and regards “Escanaba in da Moonlight” as the “best comedy you haven’t heard of.”
The original play was created by actor Jeff Daniels, who also wrote, directed and starred in the 2001 film adaptation. Sorensen said the play follows the movie pretty closely and keeps most of its comedic scenes intact.
Along with the play’s humor, Gaul added that the writing and colorful characters help bring the show to life and keep it memorable. One character believes he's been abducted by aliens. Gaul’s character, Reuben, is the oldest son in the Soady household and believes he is cursed for not having shot a buck in his lifetime. Albert Soady, played by Ken Neihus, is Reuben’s father and is more or less the leader of the clan and leads a very traditional life and hopes to pass on the traditions of the Soady family to his sons.
Directing this show, Sorensen said, has been a joy since everyone in the six-member cast has been able to delve deep into character. The smaller cast meant Sorensen was able to interact with each actor one-on-one and hone in on specific details in order to fully capture the character.
Gaul said, “You don’t really need a huge ensemble to do a great show. There are many fabulous shows we do up here and ‘Escanaba’ will prove to be a lot of fun and give the audience something to relate to and characters to cheer for, too.”