‘Alligator Summer’ Addresses Human’s Primal Fears

“Alligator Summer” by Dylan Lamb is an audacious farce in which two southern families have taken refuge in an attic, Anne Frank style, after an endless army of alligators have overrun their town. Subtitled “A Southern Gothic Atrocity in Three Acts,” it is an absurd play that seriously confronts how we face our primal fears, address reality and communicate truthfully. Squeaky Bicycle Productions (www.squeakybicyleproductions.com), a young and hungry company dedicated to new works, will present the play June 20 to July 7 in the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre of Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, 312 West 36th Street. Brandi Varnell directs.

The play was originally developed in Fresh Ground Pepper’s PlayGround and had a workshop presentation in the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival. The playwright and Squeaky Bicycle Productions have reimagined the play since then through an expanded workshop at The Drilling Company in which the play’s length was cut by 30% and its characters were redefined. Mr. Lamb writes, “This play is a melancholic memory of a period in a man’s life too horrific to be performed realistically.”

The story is told Glass Menagerie style from the memories of of Antietam Julep (Nicholas Yenson right), who at 13 was a closeted young man locked in this pressure cooker with Antebellum Gettysburg (Erin E. McGuff – left), a concupiscent girl of 12. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

In the play, it is 1944 and the citizens of a Louisiana town are sweltering in hiding after an invasion of alligators. The Gettysburgs (EthelynnAnn and Bundle) have joined the Juleps (Attica and Atticus) in the latters’ attic. The story is told “Glass Menagerie” style from the memories of of Antietam Julep, who at 13 was a closeted young man locked in this pressure cooker with Antebellum Gettysburg, a concupiscent girl of 12, and his sociopathic brother Toby, 20. As Antietam nurses his mortally ill mother and withstands the erotic longings of Antebellum, his father conducts an illicit affair with EthelynnAnn and plots the removal of her husband, Bundle. Toby is presumed dead, but appears with a barrel of whiskey and sets loose a reckless cycle of violence. The comedy is broad and the events of the play are silly and scary, but its metaphors are deadly serious. Most of the characters are suffering from mental illnesses, which are personified as reptiles. Dylan Lamb writes, “I thought that, by planting an outside fear that was more primal in its danger, I could put into context the emotional obstacles that are often insurmountable in Southern melodramas.” This primal fear has had several faces throughout history and in the period of the play, the Nazis were its human equivalent. The ill-fated romance between Antietam and Antebellum evokes the diary of Anne Frank and the hope that can override the face of fear.

Antietam Julep (Nicholas Yenson L) endures the posturing of his sociopathic brother, Toby (Dylan Lamb – R). Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Director Brandi Varnell directed Squeaky Bicycle’s developmental reading in 2013. She is a graduate of The New School and an actor. She has previously directed “Tracks Electrified” by Jane Miller and “Pop Dies in Vegas” by W.M. Akers.

The actors are Mark A. Keeton, Annalisa Loeffler, Nicholas Yenson, Nathan Brisby, Jackie Krim, Erin E. McGuff and Dylan Lamb. Set design is by Kathryn Lieber. Lighting design is by Christopher D’Angelo. Costume design is by Bethany Johnsrud. Sound design is by Emily Auciello.

“Alligator Summer” plays June 20 to July 7, 2013 at Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex (Dorothy Strelsin Theatre), 312 West 36th Street, NYC. The play is presented by Squeaky Bicycle Productions, www.squeakybicyleproductions.com, and is not a production of The Abingdon Theater Company, Inc. Performances are June 20 to 30: Th-Sat at 8:00 PM, Sat & Sun at 3:00 PM and July 1-7: Mon, Tue & Fri at 8:00 PM, Sat & Sun at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $15 in advance (www.smarttix.com, 212-868-4444) and $18 at the door.