An "Unexpected" encounter

The Brickyard Theatre brings "The Unexpected Man" to its intimate courtyard stage

Special to The TribuneSeptember 5, 2013 

Michael Siebrass and Gailee Walker Wells in "The Unexpected Man."

COURTESY OF ANET CARLIN

Anet and Charley Carlin’s Brickyard Theatre is back in action, presenting Yazmina Reza’s “The Unexpected Man,” a two-person play that director Anet Carlin calls a “grown-up play.”

It takes place in the compartment of a train bound for Frankfurt. The man is a famous writer, known for being antisocial and even bitter. The woman is an enormous admirer of his work and has his latest novel, “The Unexpected Man,” in her handbag.

She wants to talk to him, but is paralyzed by a combination of awed fear and a sense that she may be disappointed if her fantasies of what he may be like prove to be superior to reality. Meanwhile, he retreats into his own world, contemplating family problems and criticism of his latest work. Most of the dialogue consists of alternating monologues expressing the characters’ thoughts.

Anet Carlin said she searches for just the right play to produce in the summer in the Carlins’ theater in the courtyard of their Atascadero home.

“I read plays and plays, reviews, lists of shows from every rep company in the country, synopses of plays. One morning I read this play and it hit me. This is the one,” Anet Carlin said. “What I liked about ‘The Unexpected Man’ is that Ms. Reza can portray, beautifully, the complex condition of being human. She is able to let us see our foibles, strangeness, and contradictory natures without making us hate ourselves too much. Her characters are charming, judgmental, ironic about themselves and smart. She writes grown-up plays.”

She describes “grown-up plays” as “plays that have no simple answers. People are not good or bad. They are poignant and funny, and we can see what fools we are.”

Anet Carlin cast Michael Siebrass and Gailee Walker Wells.

“With Reza’s plays you’d better find actors that can play many ‘colors’ in their characters. They need to be intellectuals that can play from the heart. Tough, but we got ’em,” she said.

An art exhibition in the Carlins’ Circle of Friends gallery in their house accompanies each play. Featured artists in the current show are Julie Forbes, Melinda Frankel and Dennis Dillow. Since the play reflects layers and layers that build up to reveal its two characters, Forbes and Frankel were invited to do collaged images. They copied pieces of the script and chose text from the play. Because the play is about a writer, Dillow, a fine pencil artist, shows portraits of writers.

The Carlins began setting plays in their courtyard in Atascadero in 2004. Anet Carlin has been involved in the founding of numerous theaters on the Central Coast, and her husband envisioned their courtyard theater.

“I wanted Anet to be able to continue to make theater,” Charley Carlin said.

The annual shows have become fundraisers for nonprofit groups in the community, such as Hospice, AAUW, the library, the Medical Society. The Carlins offer the show at a nominal price to help cover their costs. The sponsoring groups set their own ticket prices. They serve wine, tapas and desserts, and the Carlins serve coffee. For an additional cost, the Carlins will provide dinner. The organizations usually make about $1,500 after their fee.

“One year we wondered how much money had been raised in this fashion,” Anet Carlin said. “At six nonprofits per year, that is $9,000. ... We think we have helped raise between $72,000 and $80,000 for our community.”

“I originally wanted to give Anet space to use her genius of theater,” Charley Carlin said. “But we decided to make it available to enrich lives around town. It’s gone beyond anything I ever thought.”

The first shows were performed on the bricks in the courtyard. Now tables seat 60 people, and there is a modular stage set up for the season. Because the theater is in a residential area, audience members are asked to park in a public lot near town and are shuttled up to the house.

IF YOU GO

"The Unexpected Man"
8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, Friday through Sept. 22
Brickyard Theatre, Atascadero
466-4653 or www.brickyardtheatre.com (call or check website for reservations and further details about tickets and parking)

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