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In one way or another, most people can relate to the desire for independence. Paris Community Theatre’s newest production, titled Butterflies Are Free, brings these feelings onto the stage in a heartwarming story of love, freedom and understanding.
The Tony award-winning play was penned by Leonard Gershe and first premiered on Broadway in 1969.
Butterflies is directed by Mike Pickering, who has been involved with PCT in various respects for 25 years. Though it is based in the 1960s, the play contains many themes that make it relevant today, according to Pickering. Audiences can expect to feel as though they have traveled in time while at the same time relating to its modern themes.
“It’s set in the ‘60s and definitely the feeling before the show is going to be full of ‘60s music,” he said. “But the themes that the play deals with are stuff people are dealing with today.”
The play works at a quick place and takes place in a single day. The story is centered on Don Baker, a young blind man who has recently moved away from home for the first time. A relationship soon after develops between Don and his neighbor, Jill Tanner, a free-spirited aspiring actress. However, things go awry when Don’s overbearing mother pays a visit, and immediately disapproves of not only his new apartment, but new neighbor as well.
“The biggest thing to me, the mother, she’s portrayed throughout the first part of the play as kind of a little uppity, looking down on everyone, nothing’s good enough for her son,” Pickering said. “Where he’s chosen to live, the kind of friends that he’s made, the girl-you know, his new friend.”
Mrs. Baker quickly proves to not be the only problem for Don. That evening, after arriving late for dinner, Jill announces that she landed a role in ex-boyfriend Ralph Austin’s play. Soon after, Ralph stuns Don when he reveals that he and Jill have plans to move in together.
This point in the story marks a change for not only Don, but for his mother as well. Distraught and discouraged, Don decides he wants to return home, but Mrs. Baker has come to understand her son’s desire for independence.
“And then by that point in the play…she has changed a lot and she allows him to stay there,” Pickering said. “He’s grown, he can make his own decisions, but…she tells him ‘No, I want you to stay here so you can live your life. I don’t want you coming back and being miserable’.”
The relationships between the characters form the foundation of this play. Jill and Don desire independence in their own ways, while Mrs. Baker wants to hold onto her old life. In a sense, it is a story of growth for each of the characters.
“So that’s what the whole play is about,” Pickering said. “When you love something, you have to let it go. You know, let it be free.”
Though Butterflies contains many dramatic elements, Pickering stated that the play falls into the comedic genre.
“I would call it a comedy,” he said. “I would definitely not classify it as a drama, but it’s going to make people laugh a lot in spots.”
Though the cast is small (comprised of only four people), each person involved gives a dedicated and energetic performance. Butterflies is truly a play worth watching; there is so much more to it than just a few short words can describe.
“Just give it a chance and come see it and that may make you want to come see the next one,” Pickering said.
The cast includes Austen Naron as Don Baker, Leah Maxson as Jill Tanner, Kathy Brown as Mrs. Baker, and Derek Dackus as Ralph Austin.
The play will run on January 24-26 and 30-31, and February 1-2. Evening performances will take place at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, while Sunday Matinees start at 2:30pm. Tickets can be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com or reserved at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Courtney McNeal, eParisExtra