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Performing Arts

Summer in the Underground

Zachary Chiero stars in “Buyer & Cellar.” (Courtesy of Merely Players)
Merely Players presents double bill in June

“It will, indeed, be a busy June for theater,” Mona Wood-Patterson said recently.

Co-founder and artistic director of Merely Players, Wood-Patterson is acknowledging not only the contributions of Merely Players, our long-standing resident company, but an abundance of other performances in Durango this month. The Durango Chamber Music Festival starts June 5. And, the sudden emergence of Durango Theatreworks at Fort Lewis College will add three dramatic productions spanning June and July.

Merely Players launches its busy summer by rescheduling two earlier productions for the first week in June.

First, Jonathan Tolins’ “Buyer & Cellar” opens June 2. With its double-entendre title, the solo-actor comedy links real estate jargon to Barbara Streisand’s famous basement in Malibu. Only a playwright with a sense of the absurd could come up with that title and turn the concept into an engaging script.

“Buyer & Cellar,” Wood-Patterson said, “is an irresistibly outrageous one-man play that tells the story of an underemployed Los Angeles actor who goes to work in Streisand’s basement It’s a smart, sharp, hilarious look at the price of fame and the oddest of odd jobs.”

For non-Angelinos, it helps to know that Streisand turned her stuff-filled basement into a kind of shopping experience and even wrote a book about it. It took playwright Tolins to see the absurd confluence of consumerism and celebrity.

If you go

WHAT: Merely Summer, two productions:

I. “Buyer & Cellar,” a comedy by Jonathan Tolins, presented by Merely Players, featuring Zachary Chiero, directed by Mona Wood-Patterson.

WHEN: 7 p.m. June 2, 3, and 4 and 2 p.m. June 5.



II. “The Children,” a one-act play by Lucy Kirkwood, directed by Mona Wood-Patterson.

WHEN: 7 p.m. June 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18, and 2 p.m. June 12 and 19.

WHERE: Merely Underground, 789 Tech Center Drive, Durango, CO.

TICKETS: Flex passes or $30.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.merelyplayers.org or call 749-8585.

“We’ve hired Zachary Chiero to play the role,” Wood-Patterson said. “He has played it before, but this is our production, and I am shaping/directing it.”

Chiero, in fact, launched his solo show with the Act II Playhouse in Philadelphia and has taken it on the road. With Wood-Patterson’s fresh directorial eye, the work will, no doubt, acquire new shades of meaning and hidden corners for laughter.

“The very next weekend, Friday, June 10, we will present our long-awaited and COVID-delayed production ‘The Children,’” Wood-Patterson said. “Written by British playwright Lucy Kirkwood, it’s about the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. Two retired nuclear scientists are determined to preserve normalcy even as the world around them crumbles. An old friend arrives with a frightening request. They explore notions of accountability, guilt and mortality.”

The cast of “The Children,” are from left: Maureen (Rose), Jeannie Wheeldon (Hazel) and Stephen Bowers (Robin). (Courtesy of Merely Players)

Directed by Wood-Patterson’s associate, Liz Gray, “The Children” features local acting stalwarts: Maureen May as Rose, Jeannie Wheeldon as Hazel and Stephen Bowers as Robin. The play opened in London in 2016 with a stellar British cast and transferred to Broadway later. “The Children” will be performed in the round and runs through June 19.

Both shows carry a rating of PG-13 with sexual references and “language.”

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.