By Nicholas W McClellan
We’ve all heard the phrase “fight or flight” in reference to dealing with stressors and fear.
The characters in Don’t Drink the Water, Van Wert Civic Theatre’s fourth show of the season premiering March 13th are all, for a majority of the show, in a state of fear – with well written comic effect by Woody Allen. They face fears such as living up to the expectations of a successful father, an unhappy marriage, and a failing business.
The action begins as the Hollander family (American tourists played by Amber Evans, Steve Lane, and Jenna Brunk) flee the capture of Communist police who think their spies by taking refuge in an American Embassy. Unfortunately for them, the ambassador is away on business and has left his incompetent son (Axel Magee) in charge. This fear of death unifies most of the characters toward a common goal: surviving.
Yet, the point is not that fear exists, it’s how the characters (and generally all people) handle fear I’m interested in. How does one successfully overcome a stressful (and possibly life-ending) situation? The key, in my opinion, is trust… and a heavy dose of comedy with intended laughter.
For example, I recently had a brush with death. It was a Friday night after a performance of Avenue Q (VWCT’s third show of the season). I was ready for a tall 7&7 and some delicious, free fried chicken wings provided by our esteemed director, Jerry Zimmerman (Jerry co-owns The Fort, a fantastic eatery and bar in the heart of Fort Jennings).
Because my car was in the shop at Hegemier’s, my friend Myron volunteered to drive me to the cast party. Let it be known that though he is a brilliant psychologist, he is not an observant driver. Consequently, if you are ever a passenger in his car – it is absolutely terrifying, even in perfect driving conditions.
The snow began to fall just as the curtain on Avenue Q came down. We headed east on route 30 from Washington. It was if the snow was attacking us as ferocious winds blasted the rusted metal shell of Myron’s maroon Chevy Lumina. “Please slow down, Myron.” I pleaded.
My heart raced as the road in front of us kept disappearing under the drifting white powder. Each time the wind blew, the road completely vanished for a moment which motivated Myron to swerve right and left in an attempt to “find” the road.
I felt sweat on my forehead and palms. For a moment, the wind died down and a peaceful car ride seemed almost possible. This gave Myron a moment to change the station on the radio. As he fumbled with the dial, the heaviest wind gust of the evening hurled a thick wall of snow. There was no road, houses, street lamps, or sky, just ceaseless white, everywhere.
Suddenly, Myron jerked the wheel to the right, thinking the road had veered. “We are going off the road.” I calmly asserted.
From beneath the vehicle, I heard repetitive thuds while my body bounced along. “WE ARE IN A CORNFIELD!” This assertion was slightly less calm. Yet, before I could completely lose my cool, Myron had managed to redirect his vehicle back to the road. Disaster was averted.
“Well, that was exciting.” Myron chuckled and continued on his merry way.
I was honestly afraid I might die. Despite the real fear of imminent death, I kept my calm. The last thing that was going to help the situation was to flip out, grab the wheel, and yell obscenities at the top of my lungs. Apparently, it’s feasible to imagine the possibility of your demise and not go completely insane in the process. How was this possible; what allowed me to be rational when confronted with terror?
This was possible because I trust Myron and I’m willing to find humor in most situations. I was able to let go. Without trust (and an ability to laugh), any fear or stressful situation can be consuming.The characters in Don’t Drink the Water, running March 13th through the 23rd at Van Wert Civic Theatre, figure this out, too. The only way the Hollander family is going to escape the embassy is if they have faith in each other and their new friends at the embassy. People need people to live (and to laugh with and at).
I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to trust others (realise what’s out of your control) and laugh whenever possible. I invite you to explore these issues yourself, by joining us at Van Wert Civic Theatre for our production of Woody Allen’s Don’t Drink the Water on March 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, or 23. Call 419-238-9689 between 2:00pm and 6:00pm, Monday through Saturday starting March 10th to make your reservations. “Like” us on facebook and “follow” us on Pinterest and Twitter. For more information visit http://vwct.org
Don’t miss this show. Trust me!