Alex Jones

Playwright

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Canned Peaches in Syrup

Stage play & Film by Alex Jones

Canned Peaches In Syrup Picture
American Production

Play Synopsis:

Pasadena Playhouse, Los Angeles, October 2007.

Eight weeks after run was extended - sold out.

A hundred years of global warming has reduced the planet to a desert wasteland, peopled by dwindling tribes of vegetarians and cannibals. Ma, Pa and Julie wander the blighted landscapes of what was once a thriving metropolis in search of vegetable sustenance, but when the malicious prophet Blind Bastard shows up and discovers they are the guardians of the very last can of fruit known to mankind, and as sure as apples are apples somebody's going to die.

After informing the cannibals in a nearby canyon that there is fresh meat nearby, it is decided that one of them should check them out. Rog bravely wanders into their camp and before Pa can blow out his guts, his daughter falls instantly in love, triggering a Romeo and Juliet journey that spirals dangerously into passion, mayhem and destruction beneath the background of a doomed world.

Pasadena Playhouse copy - Alex Jones' timely and hilarious post-apocalyptic comedy, Canned Peaches In Syrup places us in a seemingly absurd and inconvenient future where water is scarce, the sun has gone crazy and love still survives.

The world is divided into two tribes of nomadic humans: Cannibals and Vegetarians.

Can star-crossed lovers Rog and Julie cross tribal lines?!

Can Rog's taste for flesh be suppressed?!

Can Julie deny her parents' "meat is murder" mantra?!

And, who exactly is Blind Bastard?

A lone can of peaches in syrup hold their fate... and the fate of all mankind.

Canned Peaches in Syrup - Italian Production
Italian Production

Play Reviews:

Pasadena Playhouse, Los Angeles, October 2007. Eight weeks after run was extended - sold out.

LA StageScene.com: Seeing a show at the Furious Theatre in Pasadena is a virtual guarantee of a brilliantly acted and staged production. Dámaso Rodriguez and his furiously fearless band of thespians invariably pick edgy and topical pieces of writing, which they bring to vivid life upstairs at the Pasadena Playhouse, and Canned Peaches in Syrup is no exception. Set in the not so distant future, in a world where food and water are so scarce that half the remaining inhabitants of our planet have turned to cannibalism to survive, Canned Peaches is, as they say, as topical as today’s headlines. It’s also an outrageously funny comedy, and a love story a la Romeo and Juliet to boot. As the play opens we meet (in starkly beautiful silhouette against an orange sky) Pa, Ma, and Julie, a family of vegetarians (the other half of those still alive), looking for fresh pastures. Vegetarians are “the chosen people,” they proclaim in their Oklahoma dust bowl accents and ragged garb. A tall and imposing figure arrives, striking fear in their hearts. “They call me Blind Bastard,” he tells them portentously. "Why is that?" they ask. “Because I’m blind!” (As you can see, this is a comedy.) Ma, whose faith remains intact despite the bleakness of her life and surroundings, declares him a holy man. Life may be fucked up, she says, but “God fucked it up to test us.” One way her life is fucked up now is that her “shit is blue” instead of the usual vegetarian green, and what could that portend? “God’s trying to tell me something,” she tells Pa, who replies wryly, “There’s easier ways than turning your shit blue.” This vegetarian family’s cannibal counterparts are Bill, Heather, Rog, and Scab, looking like something out of Mad Max.

Their motto is “flesh for flesh,” and their language makes the vegetarians sound like a Disney family by comparison, and next to the cannibals, the veggies look just about ready for dinner with the president. That is to say, these man-eaters are the filthiest looking and sounding folk you’re likely to see on an L.A. stage this year, or any other. “For fuck’s sake, we eat people!” one of them exclaims, defensively...or proudly.

Upon learning that there are vegetarians (i.e. food for hungry cannibals) nearby, their interest is piqued, but when Blind Bastard warns the cannibals that the veggies have a shotgun (and quite possibly bullets), they decide to send Rog to reconnoitre. Though Rog swears to Pa, Ma, and Julie that he’s a veggie, a disbelieving Pa threatens to shoot him dead. Julie, however, looks into his “weird” eyes and sees not only someone she can trust but someone any love/sex-starved veggie teen girl could love. Rog feels the same, though in his own case, the stakes are higher. Struck by a thunderbolt of love at first sight, he twangs, “I can’t eat her! She’s beautiful!” and yet another R&J fall head over heals for each other. Don’t expect the course of true love to run smoothly, though. The cannibals are not about to give up their quest for meat so easily. Playwright Alex Jones has written a seriocomic warning of the dangers of global warning, pollution, war, and all the other threats to our planet, to which director Rodriguez has applied his usual magic, abetted by a cast that couldn’t be better. The Furious Theatre’s company of actors is small (just 13 in all) which means that every Furious production benefits from the best of the company’s ensemble as well as guest artists who bring their unique gifts to each show.

Furious members appearing in Canned Peaches are Nick Cernoch, Katie Davies, Shawn Lee, and Eric Pargac. They are joined by Dana Kelly, Jr., Robert Pescovitz (a Furious regular), Laura Raynor, and Libby West. Cernoch (who’s served nobly backstage and in the booth for the past few productions) returns to the Furious stage in an absolutely superb performance as Scab, a Cannibal so weakened by disease (he is called Scab with good reason) that he never moves from his earthen bed. Cernoch brings out every layer of beauty and poignancy in the horribly infected Scab, who is protests that, “I’m not dying. I just need a good wash.” No matter how terribly he suffers, Scab will not give up. “It’s still life,” he tells Bill, played by the wonderful Pargac (on a roll this year with three formidable Furious performances in a row). The scene in which Scab entreats Bill to just “hold me” is the kind of scene that gets shown at the Oscars as the nominees’ names are read. Exquisite work by both actors. Raynor, as Ma, matches Cernoch and Pargac every step of the way. In a world of violence and starvation, hope shines from her eloquent eyes in a gentle and powerful performance. As Pa, Pescovitz downplays his leading man good looks, becoming a Henry Fonda as Tom Joad for our time. And Katie Davies is adorable wide-eyed innocence in a world gone mad. She tells Rog (without irony), “You make me feel great! I’ve only thrown up twice today!” Ma and Pa are equally delighted that their daughter has found love with a wandering veggie. “I never thought I’d see her fuck!” exclaims an overjoyed Ma. “She’s growin’ up,” explains a philosophic Pa.

Since Raynor, Pescovitz, and Davies clearly love the characters whom they are bringing to life, the humor never sounds forced or crass, and the vulgarity of their language is softened by the genuineness of their work. Kelly makes the enigmatic giant Blind Bastard alternately sympathetic, scary, and dangerous, and Lee (memorable in Impending Rupture of the Belly) does fine work once again as the most improbable of romantic suitors. Finally, West (one of our busiest and most versatile actresses) is the scruffiest, raunchiest, filthiest Heather (of all names!) you’re likely to see on stage…ever! That the same actress who embodied the small town beauty of Madge in Picnic and the Hollywood glamour of Lily Garland in Twentieth Century could play a character who makes Sigourney Weaver’s in Alien seem like a girl from finishing school is nothing short of miraculous. (One of my favorite exchanges is between Rog and Heather. Rog: “They’re good people!” Heather: “They’re supposed to be a good meal!”).

A Furious production is destined to benefit from the finest design team around, and Canned Peaches in Syrup is no exception. From Melissa Teoh’s striking scenic design, which makes every image a gorgeous tableau, to Dan Jenkins’ mood-enhancing lighting which scorches the stage in a blaze of orange, to Christy M. Hauptman’s costumes, a “distressed” bunch of hugely imaginative rags, to Doug Newell’s apocalyptic original music and sound design, this is a Furious band of artists at the top of their crafts. Add to them Brian Danner’s fight choreography (there’s a three-way free-for-all in Act 1 that exhausts the audience just to watch) and Christa McCarthy’s hair design (“I washed my hair last year!” brags Julie, and you believe her) and makeup (like Scab’s which takes Cernoch two hours to apply) and you have one hell (deliberate choice of words) of a striking production. Dámaso Rodriguez told a Q&A audience after last night’s performance that the Furious chooses its scripts based on two primary criteria: the story must ask questions, and it must have high stakes. In Alex Jones’ frighteningly real (yet outrageously funny) script, there are both.

Canned Peaches in Syrup makes its audiences think and ask questions (about pollution, global warming, war, and other plagues that threaten our earth) and the stakes for its eight characters couldn’t be higher. At the final fade out, we are forced to ask ourselves, is there still hope, or is this the end of everything, as we know it, questions which couldn’t be more topical or relevant in today’s world. Funny, filthy, touching, action-filled, romantic, tragic…Canned Peaches in Syrup is all of this, and more. Steven Stanley. Carrie Hamilton Theatre (formerly the Pasadena Playhouse Balcony Theatre), 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Through Saturday, November 10; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.furioustheatre.org or www.tix.com or by calling the 24-hour ticket line at 1-800-595-4849.

Variety - Recommended: Legit: With "Canned Peaches in Syrup," a relentlessly macabre glimpse into a post-apocalyptic future of worldwide environmental devastation, Brit scripter Alex Jones has impressively intermingled an everyday struggle to survive with the often-hilarious absurdity of the human spirit that innately strives to create normalcy out of chaos. Under the inventive staging of helmer Damaso Rodriguez, a talented and dedicated eight-member Furious Theater Company ensemble turns Jones' creative vision into a compelling and noteworthy legiter

The planet's civilizations have been distilled down to two tribes of nomadic humans: Vegetarians and Cannibals. Pragmatic veggie-muncher Pa (Robert Pescovitz) strives to instill the will to live into the spirits of his sickly wife Ma (Laura Raynor) and listless daughter Julie (Katie Davies). Pa's one tangible symbol of hope is an unopened can of peaches, which he is saving to celebrate the world's rebirth, when the Earth can finally replenish itself. The sorry condition of the planet is a result of the environmental concerns of today, principally the broad strokes of industrial pollution and global warming. The concept of a divinity, however, is still strongly embedded within the psyches of these motley human stragglers, enabling smooth-talking religious huckster Blind Bastard (Dana Kelly Jr.) to play off the fears of both clans. Mellifluously gifted Kelly projects a perfect balance of pomposity and grasping need as Blind Bastard relentlessly pursues the one remaining symbol of Earth's former glory: Pa's can of peaches. Jones contrasts the tentative optimism of the Pa clan with the voracious immediacy of the nearby cannibal quartet of Rog (Shawn Lee), Bill (Eric Pargac), Heather (Libby West) and near-dead but still lighthearted Scab (Nick Cernoch). The essence of Jones' thematic throughline, the burgeoning Romeo and Juliet romance between Rog and Julie, is set in motion by the absurdly hyperphysical antics of the cannibals as they send Rog surreptitiously into Pa's camp to scout out their next meal -- Pa and kin. Lee and Davies are perfectly matched, as Rog and Julie utter endearing profanities at one another that are in perfect accord with the wretched, environment-ravaged conditions of their youthful bodies. In Jones' painfully brutal world, the couple reaches their romantic pinnacle when Rog tentatively suggests they engage in a near-extinct level of human interaction: copulation. The action is played out on Melissa Tech's stark, impressionistic sets, which give credence to the scripter's concept of a sun-seared American landscape devoid of adequate natural resources to sustain healthy life. The ensemble's character-perfect perfs are enhanced by the inventive, evocative designs of Christy M. Hauptman (costumes/props), Dan Jenkins (lighting) and Doug Newell (sound/music).

L.A. Times: 'Canned Peaches' a wicked farce. Times rating: recommended. Readers' rating: recommended. 'Alex Jones' smart and wicked farce imagines a world divided into cannibals and vegetarians. The play manages to make the audience laugh as mankind literally devours itself limb by limb' - In a drought-stricken dystopia where humans are divided into cannibals and vegetarians, life tastes pretty much like a mouthful of dirt no matter what diet you follow. Alex Jones' new play, "Canned Peaches in Syrup," is a nasty, cynical farce about human desperation in bleak times, but as the title indicates, there's more than a hint of sweetness to balance out the bitter world view. The Furious Theatre Company's production is smart, wicked and acted with animal intensity by a stellar cast. The story follows two itinerant groups -- a nuclear family of vegetarians ("Meat is murder!" serves as their mantra) and a mercenary gang of cannibals. Everyone is hungry, tired and covered in a permanent layer of dust. In an attempt to procure human flesh, one of the cannibals (Shawn Lee) secretly infiltrates the vegetarian camp, only to fall in love with the family's young daughter (Katie Davies). "I like your hair," the boy says. "Thanks. I washed it last year," she shyly replies. The plot line suggests "Romeo and Juliet" crossed with "Mad Max," but the overall tone is more like a raunchy satire in the Alfred Jarry vein. The dialogue features wall-to-wall profanity, and the scatological conversations possess a deadpan comic quality. In the end, the vegetarians' prized can of peaches goes missing and bloody mayhem breaks loose. This play's biggest achievement is making the audience roar with laughter as mankind literally devours itself limb by limb. David Ng

Los Angeles city Beat: Maybe it’s because Halloween and the Day of the Dead are imminent? Whatever the reason, death hovers over most of the plays that I saw last week. Jeannette describes the devastation caused by their wildfire as “very end of the world.” But it’s nothing compared to the actual end-of-the-world scenario in Alex Jones’s Canned Peaches in Syrup, a Furious Theatre production in which nomadic cannibals and vegetarians are the only people left in the wake of an apocalypse. This play has a higher death toll (three) than any of the others I saw last week, but it’s actually more about the death of the planet – and the touching attempts of its creatures to maintain some shred of human feeling, particularly through a Romeo and Juliet-style romance. The titular can of fruit, which we might dismiss today as blah compared to fresh peaches, has become a rare and precious relic in the playwright’s post-apocalyptic world. Jones is saying, amid a torrent of graphic language and violence: Count your blessings. Dámaso Rodriguez’s cast is dynamite, and this grimly funny work ultimately serves as a chilling siren, warning us of what might be. Don Shirley.

Backstage.com - Critics Pick: An unkempt patriarch leads his family through a desolate landscape, dragging a large wagon that contains the family belongings, à la Mother Courage. This opening imagery in Alex Jones' futuristic dark comedy brims with contemporary resonance, evoking reflections on society's homeless population. Setting his play in an unspecified region in America after environmental damage has led to an apocalypse, Jones combines audaciously subversive humor with subtle poignancy to profound effect. Director Dámaso Rodriguez's incisive world-premiere rendition is a bold and thrillingly theatrical exploration of Jones' intriguing themes. With the world's food supply limited to unappetizing options such as plant roots, humanity has evolved into nomadic tribes of predators (cannibals) and prey (vegetarians). The most valuable possession of a vegetarian clan - Pa (Robert Pescovitz), Ma (Laura Raynor), and daughter Julie (Katie Davies) -- is a can of peaches. When a bizarre derelict, Blind Bastard (Dana Kelly Jr.), wanders onto the family's camp spot, presenting himself as a religious disciple, Pa foolishly shows this seemingly harmless visitor the stashed can. Bastard will do anything to get this rare delicacy for himself, including alerting a nearby cannibal tribe to the vegetarian family's whereabouts. Though Jones uses broadly comic situations to drive his story, his themes are sobering. He ponders our instinctive need for human connection, even among opponents in a desperate struggle for survival. Though bawdy dialogue and gross-out gags occasionally lapse into overkill, these devices are effective in delineating the crudity of this emotionally damaged society. The ensemble work is impeccable. Kelly is splendid as the mad wanderer -- a hilarious amalgam of Don Quixote and one of those bombastic television evangelists. As mismatched lovers, Davies evokes raucous hilarity with her sex-starved virgin, and Shawn Lee is equally fine as her suitor from the wrong side of the tracks -- a cannibal tribe. Guess who's coming to dinner? Or who will be dinner? Libby West's boisterous take on the hell-raising Heather, an insatiable carnivore, is at once funny and fearsome. Excelling in other roles are Pescovitz, Raynor, Nick Cernoch, and Eric Pargac. Stunningly surrealistic design elements and Brian Danner's masterful fight choreography add to the realization of Jones' thought-provoking vision. Les Spindle.