What can a group of average Joes and Janes possibly do to change the world around them?
That, at core, is the question posed by “Mountain Political Action Committee,” a play by Asheville native Honor Moor that opened at the Magnetic Theatre to a near-sellout crowd on Feb. 24. Moor is a theatre veteran who spent years in New York City, but “Mountain Political Action Committee” is her first foray into playwrighting.
It’s a success on all fronts, and the gist of it goes something like this:
In the wake of he-who-shall-be-named’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, a group of well-meaning Ashevillians from varied backgrounds band together to form the Mountain Political Action Committee (or MoPAC), a proclaimed “secret society” in support of “freedoms, civil liberties and social justice.” No one in the group has much experience in political activism, and it certainly shows, but that doesn’t stop the rag-tag bunch from ultimately making a difference in its community.
Carried by a spirited and often-riotous central performance by Delina Hensley – who is cast as the group’s Type-A, extraordinarily Southern organizer, Velma Lytle – the play is structured around five of the committee’s meetings. Much to Lytle’s horror, the motley crew of amateurs veers off-topic with amusing regularity, thanks mostly to the hysterical and hyperbolic Lizzie Crutchfield (played by Tara Theodossis) and her never-ending issues with a rescue dog named, perhaps fittingly, Persistence.
Yet when group member and out-of-the-closet lesbian Andrea Caldwell (played by a strong-fisted Cary Nichols) and her wife, the never-seen Sweet Pea, fall victim to a hate crime committed with spray paint, pesky Persistence plays a key – albeit unintended – role in capturing the perpetrator.
With the guilty party brought to justice, the committee’s creation is validated, and its stated purpose of protecting its beloved Asheville from small-minded bigotry is – against all odds – achieved. Moor’s message of everyday men and women leaving a positive mark on their corner of the world through sheer determination (and perhaps a little luck), despite glaring shortcomings, is inspiring and timely, considering the current political climate each of us knows all-too-well by now.
Indeed, Moor’s play is all about the power inherent in everyday people uniting for a common cause. Indeed, the characters she sketches are relatable and lovable caricatures.
Johnson Hendon III (Tim Plaut) is a nerdy, pen-arranging pushover who takes his job at Verizon very seriously. Olson Kelly (Scott Cameron) is the tell-it-like-it-is firefighter with conservative leanings. Crutchfield is the over-dramatic wife with an insatiable lust for rescuing dogs. Caldwell is the strong-willed lesbian. And Lytle, of course, is loud, religious (though not fundamentally so) and totally in-charge.
Despite their differences, there is one thing that each of these merry fools has in common: an outsize heart.
And, indeed, if there was any doubt (hint: there isn’t) about where Moor stands on he-who-shall-not-be-named’s presidency, the final line – spoken by an indignant Lytle – makes it explicit:
“Let’s work on voting out this bastard.”
The play is running through March 10 at Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St., Asheville with performances Thursdays- Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at www.themagnetictheatre.org.
By Mike Schoeffel