“Lagunatics” turns a cheerful spotlight on Laguna Beach’s foibles, some old, some new, but none borrowed when the annual roast resumes this Friday at the Festival of Arts’ Forum Theater.
Once again, the locals who perform for the next three weekends will ask themselves and their audience “is nothing sacred?” This year, for the 19th time, the answer remains a resounding “no.”
As before, the popular variety show’s co-writers Bree Burgess Rosen and Chris Quilter address topical issues, such as Mission Hospital’s recent land purchase, and some that won’t go away, such as the city’s meter maids, bicyclists “hogging” streets and the joys of negotiating Laguna Canyon Road or the “highway from hell.”
Then there are the sea lions in cozy refurbished quarters, who might not see logic in roughing it in the wild, and those lovable goats, who still arouse occasional ire for ingesting verboten native flora.
And let’s not forget the fishing ban, an issue of passionate importance to City Council member Kelly Boyd, who, along with other elected city officials, willingly is cast in the show. When reached in his bar office, he provided a sneak peak of his solo backed up by a chorus of singing fish. “I resisted manfully, but the City Council voted — like a bad dream, my life went persplat…,” he recited from his number.
“I am learning day to day how to carry a tune, but what better way to spoof your community and politics. It’s a great release,” Boyd said.
His real-life issue opponent, Mayor Toni Iseman, plays the fish Boyd serenades in the show, said Rosen. “It’s really all about healing and fun and getting together.”
Lisa Mansour, a member of the arts commission and “stay in the car mom,” is reliving life as a dancing goat. She also adds performing as an electric car charging station and spoofing the Art Stars Awards to the tune of “La Bamba.”
Veteran No Square Theatre director Joe Lauderdale plays the goats’ herder, singing Frank Sinatra’s “It Had to Be You” with the twisted lyric “It Had to be Chewed,” accompanied by goats as backup dancers. “I don’t want to give too much away; the idea is that we are playing a joke,” he said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Jane Egly says that, as a non-performer but good-sport neighbor of Rosen, she “gets to walk on and be as silly and stupid as she can be.”
“Chris and I have a lot of music in our heads. We brainstorm, juxtaposing original melodies with altered lyrics and we are having a lot of fun,” said Rosen.
Quilter, a nearly fulltime resident since 1957, recounted how after a canyon flood someone quipped “in case of emergency, your seat cushion can be used as a floating device.”
“A light just went on and I started writing parodies,” he said.
Even though he has written material for roughly 16 years, he does not like performing. “I’d rather stay in the dark with the audience,” he quipped.
He does take credit for putting together a “cheat sheet” for out of town visitors who might be mystified by the city’s inner workings and issues, save for parking.
“Bree and I argue about everything and it takes forever to get things done, but happily it makes for a lot of material,” he said. This year, Quilter said he will enjoy teasing City Manager John Pietig, who replaced the retired Ken Frank.
In 19 years, Rosen has not lacked for inspiration. It all began when she and her husband where remodeling a house and tussled with the Design Review Board over the under finish of a deck. Held to different standards than a neighbor on a similar project, she began the first “Lagunatics” with ripping the DRB for drafting arbitrary rules. “Even then, it was healing; it was all about getting over it,” she recalled.
Today she still enjoys the process of writing and rehearsing as much as in the beginning. “The cast is like a family. There’s a lot of hilarity and not a single rehearsal when someone does not do something goofy and everyone laughs out loud,” she said. “Our good times are therapeutic for everyone.”
Hot off Quilter’s cheat sheet: “Newspapers are a harder than ever sell in our digital age, yet we have three to wrap our digits around and we get what we pay for.”
Lagunatics: Eight performances at the Festival of Arts’ Forum Theater, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, between Oct. 15 and 30, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m., $45; Sunday, 6:30 p.m., $35; gala Oct. 30, 5 p.m., $100, costumes encouraged. Tickets: www.nosquare.org 949-715-0333