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Theater - The other odd couple 

Masquers open their summer season with T-Bone N Weasel

Playwright Jon Klein has written more than 20 plays, but is best known for a quirky, Southern-fried comedy called T-Bone N Weasel.

This story about two best friends with larcenous hearts is being staged by the AASU Masquers and will open June 19. “T-Bone and Weasel are recent graduates of the South Carolina penal system,” says director Peter Mellon.

“The entire show is their journey driving all around South Carolina and meeting the oddest collection of characters you would ever want to meet,” Mellon says. “As they’re in this process, they’re both looking for something and neither is aware what it is. They’re looking for family and friends. They manage to forge one throughout the run of the play.”

While the play has four actors, there are 12 characters. “You have T-Bone, who is played by Alfred Pierce, and Weasel, played by Jonas Boyd,” Mellon says. “They obviously remain T-Bone and Weasel throughout the play, but there are other characters, including the meanest used-car salesman, who is called Happy Sam; a guy who lives underneath an overpass and establishes a church down there; the ugliest woman in South Carolina, named Verna; a rude cop; and Brother Tim, who got into the priesthood because he figured no one would yell at him, and then got assigned to a prison.”

The 10 side characters are all played by Tiffany Barnhardt and Danielle Conti. The play is definitely a comedy, but it does touch on some serious issues, including race relations, “But it’s mostly about finding yourself and finding friendship,” Mellon says.

For Pierce, T-Bone is just a regular guy who got into some trouble. “T-Bone is so serious,” he says, to laughter from other cast mates. “T-Bone is misunderstood, but he’s not bitter.

“Some people might say he’s a stereotype of black males, but that’s not necessarily true with T-Bone,” Pierce says. “He has a lot of anger with Weasel because a lot of stuff is going on and Weasel doesn’t see it.”

Weasel doesn’t understand the racial tensions T-Bone must deal with. T-Bone is probably braver than Weasel, and he’s definitely smarter.

“I would definitely say he’s lonely,” Pierce says. “I think that’s the main reason he stays with Weasel. He doesn’t realize how good friends they are, but they are really good friends.”

Pierce has played T-Bone before when he took a directing class. “It was just a one-scene play I did for the class,” he says. “As far as a character, I have an idea that T-Bone talks like Terence Howard. He reminds me of different people, but I chose not to base him on a real person. T-Bone is T-Bone, every minute of it!”

The cast is having so much fun in rehearsals, Pierce says he’s surprised they’re getting any work done. “It’s very hot outside, so come inside and get cool and laugh,” he says.

Boyd sees Weasel as being carefree, despite a troubled past. “He loves life, and he basically wants to succeed in life,” Boyd says.

“But situations arise, especially when he’s an adolescent, that lead him to a life of crime,” Boyd says. “It was forced on him because his family life was so violent. His dad tries to kill him and his mom kills his dad.”

That might sound horrific if it happened in any other play. “But it’s still funny, the way it’s written,” Boyd says. “T-Bone and Weasel are perfect for each other because they’re exact opposites. They balance each other out.

“T-Bone is constantly aware of the world and the way it treats people, especially him,” Boyd says. “Weasel is not aware of things going on right in front of his face, and that drives T-Bone crazy. He’s not perceptive, I guess he’s ignorant.

“He’s definitely stupid and socially disabled,” Boyd says. “He doesn’t see things at all. He reacts in ways a normal person wouldn’t react.”

Boyd has based the character on some of his favorite actors. “I tried to find characters who were white, clumsy and just a little ignorant,” he says. “Kevin James’ character from Hitch is very ignorant when it comes to the dating world. I just added a Southern accent.”

It should be pointed out that the play contains adult language. “There’s an insinuation Weasel is having sex, but it doesn’t show it,” Boyd says. “There are a few F-bombs and that’s about it. It would be rated PG-13.

“If you want to laugh, you should come,” Boyd says. “If you want irony or meaningfulness, you should come. Just to see four actors play 12 different characters is a treat, too.”

AASU Masquers: T-Bone N Weasel

What: A comedy by playwright Jon Klein that follows two ex-cons as they attempt to scam and steal their way across South Carolina. Audience discretion is advised.When: June 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. and June 22 and 29 at 3 p.m.Where: Masquers Chinese Theater, Armstrong Center, 13040 Abercorn St.Cost: $10.Info: 344-2801 or www.finearts.armstrong.edu.
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