If you’re looking for a summer show with some saucy romance, twisted lies and lots of laughs, there’s no need to turn to reality TV. Bowie Community Theatre has got you covered.
Starting Friday, the theater presents “Love, Sex and the I.R.S.,” Billy Van Zandt’s farcical tale with a few cases of mistaken identity, some cross-dressing and plenty of twists of fate.
“Love, Sex and the I.R.S.” tells the hilarious story of Jon Trachtman and Leslie Arthur, two male roommates and struggling musicians living in New York City. Strapped for cash, the two have been filing their taxes as a married couple. To no surprise, the IRS has caught on and launches an investigation. What follows is a laugh-out-loud attempt to cover up the fraud, featuring a cheating fiance, a meddling mother and a series of side-splitting (and pretty unbelievable) mixups.
“Reality is not really a part of the thing,” says director Terry Averill. “It goes from crazy to even crazier.”
An architect by trade, Averill says he had not worked on a comedy in a long time and was excited to see “Love, Sex and the I.R.S.” on the Bowie Community Theatre itinerary. And Averill says the show has been everything he had hoped for.
“It’s been every bit as fun as I could have imagined,” he says.
Although the original show is set in the 1970s, Averill decided to move his version up to 1985 in order to better reflect some of the choices he made about the play. While Averill says he wanted to make “Love, Sex and the I.R.S.” a bit more modern and relatable to today’s audience, he couldn’t justify changing the time period of the play to the 1990s or 2000s.
“I didn’t want it to be in the disco era so that people don’t relate to it, but I didn’t want it so close because then it wouldn’t make sense.”
While “Love, Sex and the I.R.S.” is mostly light, slapstick fun, there are some jabs about more sensitive topics. Averill says some of the comments in the show concerning morality issues, like adultery, wouldn’t be believable if the show was set in the modern day, but would still be plausible in 1985.
“Some of the comments are too naive to bring into the 1990s,” Averill says.
“The morals of today are very much looser than they were back in the ’80s,” adds Joanne Bauer, who plays Jon’s mother, Vivian Trachtman.
Averill might not have been able to bring the show into the 1990s or the modern day, but due to some casting choices, the 1970s wasn’t an appropriate time period either. The director cast African American actors to play Kate Dennis, Jon’s fiance, and Jansen, the landlord. While an interracial couple or an African American landlady wouldn’t raise eyebrows today, or even in 1985, the scenarios would have been less believable in the 1970s.
“It didn’t make sense that a lady who was African American would own the building at that time,” Averill says.
As he began work on the show, selecting songs by Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper, Averill realized that his own ability to relate to the show made it easy to adapt his script.
“It struck me as I was working on the music, that that’s what I like about it, it reminds me of my own time period,” says Averill. “I really felt that it reminded me of when I was 25 and all of the crap you go through and the stupid things you do because you’re too young to realize.”
While Bauer says she understands her director’s choice to update the play, she wishes Averill had set the show in the present — but only for practical reasons. Originally from Brentwood and now living in Prince George’s County, Bauer has been with the Bowie Community Theater for more than 30 years. And she’s been the theater’s treasurer for over 20 years. In charge of the budget, Bauer is responsible for overseeing the cost of props and costumes.
“I would have preferred it being set in more of a modern day only because costuming was a challenge,” Bauer says.
The cast had to get a little creative with their wardrobe, heading to thrift stores for a lot of their threads, and Bauer says she’s wearing her own suit from the 1980s in the play.
“Beg, borrow and steal is the mantra of community theater,” Bauer laughs.