June 13, 2013

Off Beat: Bully for them

Snowlion Repertory opens "The Freaks Club," an unusual musical comedy focused on bullying.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Margit Ahlin calls the new play “The Freaks Club” a musical comedy about bullying.

click image to enlarge

Margen Soliman, Eileen Hanley and Zachariah Stearn perform a scene in "The Freaks Club" featuring the song "The Fish Can Fly," in which popular kids Linda and Anthony sweep a newly pretty Anna away from her other friends.

Photo by Michael Eric Berube/GoodPhotos.com

IF YOU GO:

"THE FREAKS CLUB”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Through June 23.

WHERE:
Studio Theater at Portland Stage, 25A Forest Ave.

HOW MUCH:
$22; $20 for students and seniors

INFO: 518-9305; snowlionrep.org  

With all the horrific news stories about the sometimes tragic consequences of bullying, it sounds like a tough topic to use as the background for funny songs.

“The humor comes in in terms of coping mechanisms, it’s how people cope with a lot of things,” said Ahlin, who wrote the lyrics for the show under the name MK Wolfe. “It’s a strong book musical, where there’s a story and the songs support it.”

“The Freaks Club” is the latest production by Snowlion Repertory Company, and opens Thursday at Studio Theater at Portland Stage.

The play centers on 18-year-old Anna, who suffers from a rare condition that makes her skin look like fish scales. She travels to a remote island to undergo treatment for her condition, and becomes the new kid in school and because of her appearance, an outsider.

So she becomes friends with other outsiders, including a blind girl.

“We hear so much about bullying and its effects, suicides, addiction to prescription drugs,” said Ahlin.

The song titles don’t sound like they’re from a message play about bullying, but instead might be right out of some 1920s show about handsome college lads trying to impress the local co-eds. Some of those include “In the Same Boat,” “First Date,” “and “How to Get the Girl.”

But there are also songs that are more specific to the theme, like “New Kid,” “Normal” and “The Freaks Club.”

The show’s plot twist comes when Anna is transformed from “fish to dish,” meaning she loses her scales and now fits the conventional definition of pretty.

“Our basic idea was what if someone could have an operation and suddenly they were pretty,” said Ahlin.

Ahlin has been coming up with theater pieces based on a thought, or an item in the newspaper, for years. She and her husband, Al D’Andrea, had run a theater company in New York for about 10 years before starting Snowlion Repertory about two and a half years ago in Maine.

For this show, they have a cast of eight, including several University of Southern Maine students. It’s probably a good learning play for students. Because if you can do musical comedy about bullying, you can probably do anything.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: rrouthier@pressherald.com   Twitter: RayRouthier

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