At the Arcata Playhouse this weekend, the latest from Petrolia's top theatre troupe, Human Nature, is another take on what the troupe calls "climate change comedy:" Two Old Birds or Tripping on the Tipping Point.
The "old birds" (not that old) are David Simpson and Jane Lapiner, winners of the Danish Institute for Popular Theater's Prize of Hope for 2010. David and Jane are back-to-the-landers with a mission: Do whatever they can to help save the planet from imminent destruction. An earlier somewhat musical comedy, What's Funny About Climate Change? took on similar topics.
What is funny about the scary subject?
"Humor is often found in disparities," said David, calling from Petrolia with Jane also on the line. "What's funny is the disparity between what humans need to do and what we're actually doing or not doing to save civilization and the planet."
"The last show dealt specifically with obfuscation and denial," said Jane. David added, "This one's a take on false solutions."
The Simpsons are joined by their daughter, Joyful Raven Simpson, with Angus Marten providing musical counterpoint, all under the direction of Jael Weisman. While they were hesitant to reveal details (no spoilers), David let on that, "The humor is bawdy and irreverent."
Portions of the show were debuted this summer at the first Gaia Festival; appropriate, says David, since, "Joyful plays Gaia, the Greek Goddess of the Earth. There's also the Gaia hypothesis put forward by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis -- the perception that the Earth's top soil and subsoil and everything on it, all the trees and animals and the atmosphere, are all one breathing unit. They saw Gaia as one self-regulating organism. It's really the basis of our understanding of the greenhouse effect."
Jane chimes in, "We're at a point where people know about climate change, but they don't know how close we are to the edge. If they knew it would seem they'd want to be prepared for more significant measures. People don't know what to do. What can we do? That's a leading question, one we pose to the audience."
Again, how do they take this serious business and make comedy? "It's a challenge, but we think human beings are never funnier than when they're rationalizing not doing something they know they should do," says David. "Humor itself has to be affirmative. The fact that you can poke fun at things and laugh at them is an affirmation of life. If we didn't have hope, we couldn't and wouldn't make jokes about this stuff."
So, they slip their message into song, dance and jokes, hoping to help keep us from going over the edge. After the Arcata performances, Human Nature heads for Durban, South Africa, where the show will be performed for audiences at the United Nations World Climate Change Conference.
Two Old Birds or Tripping on the Tipping Point runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17, 18 and 19, 8 p.m. at the Arcata Playhouse 1251 Ninth St., Arcata. Tickets are $12, $10 for seniors and students and Playhouse members. For more information call the Playhouse at 822- 1575, or Human Nature at 629-3670.