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Put Your House In Order’ Delivers Rom-Com For The Apocalypse

La Jolla Playhouse hosts world premiere of Ike Holter’s new play

Photo credit: Jim Carmody

Shannon Matesky, Behzad Dabu and Linda Libby star in La Jolla Playhouse’s world premiere production of "Put Your House in Order" by Ike Holter, directed by Lili-Anne Brown, running June 2 through 30.

La Jolla Playhouse is premiering Ike Holter’s new play "Put Your House In Order." It’s billed as a “rom-com meets apocalyptic thriller.”

"Put Your House in Order" is not an easy play to talk about.

Lili-Anne Brown began the interview by pondering, "I don’t know what I am allowed to say on camera."

Brown is directing Ike Holter’s new play and there are certain things that need to be kept secret until the curtain goes up.

Actor Behzad Dabu is currently in rehearsals for the play.

"I am playing Roland and Roland is a teacher, he is a young..." Dabu paused for a moment. "Is it a spoiler to say he’s a…? I think it is. I try not to give spoilers away."

After thinking for a moment and conferring with his co-star Shannon Matesky he finally said, "To me it’s a date night that turns into a thriller. It's a millennial rom-com that's also a thrill ride."

Director Brown is willing to expand on that with "It's a fast-paced modern horror play with a rom-com chewy center."

The poster describes it as "Rom-com meets apocalyptic thriller."

Reported by Andi Dukleth

Actress Shannon Matesky plays Caroline and she described it as "an apocalypse play about the end of the world."

Brown added, "I think the concept of this play is you know what if your date was essentially, potentially the last date you ever went on and you didn't know it at the outset."

Placing a first date against the backdrop of a possible apocalypse can make the everyday seem epic.

"It raises the stakes," Dabu said. "Everything gets heightened and everything gets elevated and it sort of makes people cut through the crap."

"Put Your House in Order" examines how people connect under difficult and potentially life-threatening circumstances. And since it’s a play about millennials there’s a dependence on cell phones and social media.

"Social media is a small character in this play," Dabu added. "I don’t know but I think about it in real life. I live in Los Angeles and then when there’s a shaking I go to Twitter first to see if there was an earthquake and where it is. I don't go to the news. I go to Twitter because Twitter is going to have the most up to date, most accurate information without bias."

Matesky agreed: "It is another character in the play and especially with so much of us leaning on that I think the author is also drawing attention of what happens when you can’t rely on that anymore, then what do you do… And I hope that that enlightens for some folks in our generation to say, 'Hey, you know, what is your disaster relief plan and what is life beyond your phone or what is connection beyond the digital space.'"

The connection that occurs within a theater space is very different from what happens in other media.

"On film or television there's something about the camera being two inches away from the person's face, which we don't get in theater," Dabu explained. "But when we do get in theater is the audience is in the same room as loud noises. They're in the same room as the screams."

Or the sirens. There are a lot of sirens interrupting the action and the romance on stage. What I couldn't appreciate at the rehearsal was how the set adds to the production. The rehearsal was not on stage so I could not see the set, which is the house that needs to be put in order.

"I love this house," Brown enthused. "It was really lovely to be able to dream something this big on this scale. I mean that thing goes almost all the way up to the grid and it's just vast. So it's going to feel like a real setting. And I think that makes it even creepier."

"I can't wait to feel people's hairs stand on the back of their necks because I know it's going to happen," Matesky added.

Brown has high hopes for this world premiere.

"I just hope people come away from this play going, 'Oh my God. Holy crap. Oh my God, I did not expect that to happen. Oh my God.' And they're thinking about it and talking about it for like at least the next week," Brown said. "That's the reaction that we think we're going to get. And that's why we're closely guarding some of the secrets of the play because if we don't have the element of surprise it's just not as fun."

No spoilers but that is one of the surprises of "Put Your House in Order," that it can find humor and horror side by side with the apocalypse just on the horizon. And maybe that’s a feeling audiences today will identify with.

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