Lynn King and Dennis Jackson in “Dying to Party” (Thomas Kimble – TK Photography)
KC Melting Pot just wrapped up its official season but they’ve got one last treat for audiences: a brief run of a hilarious, heartfelt rollercoaster of a show. This is a theatre known for choosing plays that push boundaries and challenge its audiences to examine their own expectations. “Dying to Party” by Sashone Lambert Short, winner of Melting Pot’s 2021 Black Playwright Festival, is absolutely no exception.
Trish (Lynn King) and Allen (Dennis Jackson) are in (or rather nearing, as Trish insists indignantly) their 60s and are preparing to host a party. A special party. A—ahem–sex party. Just, as Allen puts it, “a perfectly normal married couple who’s about to host their first sex party.” The show takes place in real-time as the two set up for the evening, putting roses and colored feathers into tiny vases in an attempt at a hint of a burlesque atmosphere and heating up food in the oven. (I cannot stop wondering what kind of hot food one serves at a sex party.) Lambert Short has a keen ear for a comedic repartee and King and Jackson play expertly off one another. The first half or so of the brief (about 70-minute) show is a bouyant, deeply funny tête-à-tête, a brutally realistic depiction of a real marriage—a couple capable of spinning reams of delightful banter while also holding each other accountable for authenticity, calling each other out at the slightest breath of trespass.
But, of course, the entire play cannot be banter. Both characters have a secret they’re keeping from the other, and, as it turns out, the best time to have your secrets aired is not right before your sex party guests are meant to show up. In the span of an hour, we are able to see the full scope of this marriage, from that playful, shorthand language built on loving familiarity, to the exposing of their deepest vulnerabilities. The script is truly an impressive feat, carried out beautifully by King and Jackson, who have incredible chemistry. King especially owns the stage, inhabiting Trish with depths of vulnerability and charm.
Director Melonnie Walker does a fantastic job keeping the play moving at a swift clip, making sure every bit of nuance in both the humor and the conflict lands. Doug Schroeder creates the perfect “normal” backdrop for the action, constructing an entirely unextraordinary home—the kind of home that looks to be furnished 100% from Home Goods, from the generic floral canvas art to the random dish of decorative wicker balls—that really elevates the absurdity of the couple’s impending social plans.
As this is a special production outside their normal season, “Dying to Party” runs for one weekend only, which is a shame because it’s one truly fun night at the theatre. Don’t miss it if you have the chance.
“Dying to Party,” a production of KC Melting Pot, runs through August 27 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Central. For more information, call 816-226-8087 or go to www.kcmeltingpot.com.