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October 24, 2018

Ray (Tod Harrick) tries to make a point with James Hamilton (Adam) in Driftwood Players’ “Yankee Tavern.”

Driftwood Players kicks off its season of Theater of Intriguing Possibilities (TIPS) with Steven Dietz’s “Yankee Tavern,” a smart, focused and authentic telling of what can happen when people drink too much of the conspiracy-theory Kool-Aid.

The story takes place in 2006 in a bar called Yankee Tavern, five years after 9/11 and two years after the 9/11 Commission Report was released.

But the play is not about 9/11 conspiracies per se; it is more of an examination on why some can be attracted to conspiracy theories.

“Yankee Tavern” characters struggle with loss, fears, insecurities and doubts. Instead of dealing with their pain, they devise elaborate stories out of half-truths, outright lies and their own fertile imaginations to avoid facing the truth.

Ray (Tod Harrick) is a middle-aged, lonely, and mentally unstable regular at the tavern. He has deep ties to the bar, and is a guardian angel to the young bartender.

Ray paces with a slight stagger, wearing old clothes and communicating his conspiracies through an old microphone headset you might uncover at a secondhand store.

One minute he rants about NASA staging the moon landing. The next minute, he describes how World Trade Center Tower 7 could not have collapsed without explosive devices.

“Let it go, Ray,” a character pleads.

“I don’t let things go,” Ray spits back. There’s always a hidden motive and unseen story behind Ray’s stories.

James Hamilton makes his Driftwood debut as Adam, a bartender finishing his master’s in international studies. He thinks Ray is a kook. But as his fiancée Janet (Geena Pietromonaco) reads his master’s thesis aloud, Adam and Ray do not sound so dissimilar.

As things progress, Janet doubts the legitimacy of the person she is supposed to be marrying. “Who is this teacher I don’t know about? What job opportunity awaits in Washington, D.C? What aren’t you telling me?”

Sean Morrone returns to Driftwood as the lone drinker, Palmer, who also imbibes for his invisible friend. He scowls and rolls his eyes at Ray’s rambling, but as time goes on he dispenses his own well of conspiracies.

Director Paul Fouhy highlights the complex script’s dialogue through extended discussions. He exposes conspiracy theories as unhealthy and even dangerous when unbridled.

Ultimately though, the story is about the human experience, and how people use conspiracy theories to mask their own frailties.

“Yankee Tavern” discusses themes that may be sensitive to viewers. It is not a feel-good piece.

But for those who want to see a play that is serious, well-acted, and clever, “Yankee Tavern” is the place to visit.

“Yankee Tavern” Where: Wade James Theater, 950 Main St., Edmonds When: Through Oct. 28. 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday Tickets: $20, $18 for juniors, seniors and military Information: 425-774-9600, www.edmondsdriftwoodplayers.org


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