LOGAN — As part of the Lyric Repertory Company season, interACT is a series of new works that are staged readings with the playwright, actors, and director, after which the audience is invited to stay after the show to “interact” with the cast and crew and be part of the process of growing the show to a better, more polished production. When I attended on July 17, the show was called Little Perfect You, written by Caitlin Turnage. The reading was directed by Yesenia Garcia Herrington, and starred Marin Robinson as Lemon, Brandon Foxworth as Larry, Ollie Chieppa as Jo, Josh Newton as Michael, and Sumner Jones Shoell reading stage directions.
Surprisingly described “a play about robots and church,” Little Perfect You immediately piqued my interest. What followed was an intricate look at tradition, acceptance, trying to make things fit when they don’t, gender identity, faith, and belief. As part of their school’s engineering club, Lemon and Jo build robots, which face off in robot battles. Little Perfect You delves into these bot battles, the minds of the teenagers, and Lemon’s father’s tendency to cling to his expectation of who he wanted Lemon to be.
At this staged reading in the Utah State University Theatre Department’s black box theater the players all sat in a semi-circle with scripts on stands, and much of the action was read. Even with this, the entire show was well put together, and the reading gave the idea of what these scenes should be like. I was easily transported to the space, which is a tribute to the strong acting, interesting writing, and good direction. Even though this was only a staged reading, I was impressed with the way the players chose to dress. The script specified that Jo was an emo teenager. As a parent of an emo teenager, I can attest that this type of costuming gets messed up often in shows, but Chieppa looked exactly right for this part.
Chieppa’s portrayal of Jo was so impressive, especially given the short rehearsal time of a couple of days. I appreciated the way Chieppa and Robinson played their scenes together, especially where Lemon struggles with the concepts of gender identity, pronouns, faith, friendship, and attraction. This is all in contrast to the worldview that Lemon received from her father and church. The balance of strength and empathy that Chieppa portrayed within the piece was impressive, and the way in which Robinson was able to lean into that empathy was heartwarming.
Staged readings are often an eye-opening and new experience for theatre goers. What is so fun about this experience of interACT is the chance to discuss the show with its creative team. At this talkback, I told the writer and director that I was longing for a full production because it would answer many questions I have. What the actual robot battle would look like? What is the overall creative vision for Little Perfect You? How will seeing the visual elements change the way I react to the show? Notwithstanding my questions, it is exciting to be a part of a staged reading, and interACT is a great, low-risk way to try a new theatrical experience.
interACT is an example of why I am thrilled to be involved in the theatre community in Utah. Audiences have options to attend festivals and productions that feature new works, fringe shows, or things that are outside the norm, giving them the opportunity to see the beginnings of what might become something big. While the most notable recent example was Pioneer Theatre Company’s world premiere of Shucked, a show that seems to be a sleeper hit on Broadway, events like interACT can be just as exciting. Even the greatest, most popular show, probably started as a workshop somewhere. Why not in Logan, Utah?