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Archive for Friday, October 28, 2005

Provocative ‘Popcorn’

Violent, sexy play dishes up kernels of truth

October 28, 2005

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Rated R for sexual content, illicit drug use and graphic violence.

No, it's not the latest Quentin Tarantino flick. It's Kansas University Theatre's production of Ben Elton's controversial play, "Popcorn."

The show opens with horror film director Bruce Delamitri, played by Valley Center senior Will Paulson, having just won an Oscar for his movie "Ordinary Americans," which glamorizes murder and violence Tarantino-style. His life - and his belief that "artists don't create society, they reflect it" - is challenged when two real-life killers show up at his home demanding that he take the blame for their heinous crimes. After all, they argue, no one claims responsibility for their actions anymore. People would rather blame their parents, the media or the government.

The issue of whether violence in news or video games promotes violent behavior in real life is one of the central issues in the play.

Even cast members don't agree on the matter.

Bruce, played by Will Paulson, gets seduced by Brooke, played by Kate Giessel, in the University Theatre production of Ben Elton's "Popcorn." The R-rated production sports sex, violence, explicit language and humor.

Bruce, played by Will Paulson, gets seduced by Brooke, played by Kate Giessel, in the University Theatre production of Ben Elton's "Popcorn." The R-rated production sports sex, violence, explicit language and humor.

Paulson says, "I'd say the cast is split on this," Paulson says. "But I think if you look at the news, it's all murders and war and hurricanes. They try to grab someone's attention with death."

Dale Buchheister, a Manhattan senior who portrays one of the killers, argues that people always have a say in what they do.

"Even if someone's holding a gun to your head, you can still decide if you want to do it or not," he says.

Because of the play's contentious topic, cast members have been concerned about audience reaction.

"I'm sure we'll have people walk out of it," says Courtney Schweitzer, a Leawood junior who plays Velvet Delamitri, Bruce's daughter.

"I didn't even tell my grandparents I was in this play," says Alyson Cripps, a Topeka freshman who plays Bruce's wife, Farrah Delamitri. "They think that I didn't get into a show this semester."

Despite potential negative reactions to its content, director Ron Willis remains excited about presenting the show. He believes it was high time for the theater to do an adult play that tackles serious issues in an edgy, though often humorous way. (One character is a former Playboy centerfold who haughtily tells everyone that she is now an "actress!")

With its mix of wit and wisdom, Willis hopes that a new audience - one that includes more students - will appreciate "Popcorn."

"The overall message is that nobody assumes responsibility," he says. "The play is about the unwillingness of people to acknowledge accountability."

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