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Preview: The Book of Liz at the Theatre at St. Claude

A new theater in the AllWays Lounge launches with a comedy by Amy and David Sedaris



When Elizabeth Donderstock yells into the kitchen for orders of "Williamsburgers" and sides of "John Browns" at the Pilgrim-themed Plymouth Crock restaurant, she's displaying the take-charge attitude that has her primed for a promotion to manager after a few weeks on the job. But she's concerned about new uniforms the company's marketing team wants to adopt.

  "That skirt is the size of a BevNap," Liz tells the current manager, having quickly mastered restaurant industry lingo.

  It's immodest, and she hasn't told anyone at the restaurant that she's Squeamish — a member of an Amish-like religious community known for long beards, resistance to technology and cheese balls.

  In fact, her Squeamish community is known for her cheese balls. It relies heavily on their sales for income. But Sister Elizabeth was relieved of cheese ball production in favor of a man who recently joined the community, and it shakes her faith that the community stifles her.

  Though not exactly a comedy, the funny and absurd drama melds the talents of its authors, offbeat comedian and actress Amy Sedaris and her brother, humorist David Sedaris, who's well known for The Santaland Diaries, an account of working in the holiday-themed fantasyland at Macy's. (Amy used to sell cheese balls and cupcakes she made in her New York apartment.) Liz steps outside the sexist hierarchy of her Squeamish clan and finds that people in the outside world also follow strange creeds and cluster in insular communities, even in theme restaurants.

  The Book of Liz is the first production under the banner of The Theater at St. Claude, the result of Jim and Ryan Fitzmorris' assumption of management of the theater space at AllWays Lounge. The brothers have renovated the space, installed new light and sound boards and chairs and refurbished backstage spaces. They've initiated theater classes in the space and soon will announce a fall season and introduce acoustic music performances.

  Margeaux Fanning and Kathryn Talbot, founders of 2 Duxx productions, had planned on producing a play in the space in August — originally Del Shores' Daddy's Dyin'... Who's Got the Will — but changes at the theater and the cast size of Daddy's Dyin' caused them to change plans. Book of Liz has a cast of four and Jim Fitzmorris is serving as director and co-producer.

  Fanning and Talbot appeared together recently in the Jeffer- son Performing Arts Society's Sex Please, We're Sixty and The Gnadiges Fraulein at the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival. For their own production, they wanted to find a comedy with two prominent female roles. Fanning plays Elizabeth, and Talbot plays six characters, including the gossipy Sister Butterworth and Ukrainian immigrant Oxana, who hustles odd jobs and speaks with a Cockney British accent, because her English instructor had that accent. Kyle Daigrepont and Joel Derby also play multiple characters, and it's a fast-moving show in which everything seems both normal and abnormal at the same time.

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