Jared Stokes, left, and Victor Bowleg in Gavin Kayner's "Hokey Pokey," a play that's solidly in the theater of the absurd genre.


Playwright Gavin Kayner was haunted by a bumper sticker.

"What is the hokey pokey all about?" it said.

"That got me thinking about exploring theater through that concept," says Kayner, whose play, "Hokey Pokey," premieres this weekend.

With such an off-beat inspiration, it only makes sense that the play follow suit. It falls solidly into the theater of the absurd genre, he says.

Playwright and critic Martin Esslin coined the term in a 1960 essay. Absurdist theater, he said, "strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought." Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter are among the playwrights who made careers with plays in this style.

The four characters in Kayner's plays are in an institution.

"They are, a not very funny clown, a writer who hasn't written a word, a black magician who wants to turn white, and a con man selling an elixir," explains Kayner.

The con man works in the institution; the others are inmates.

"We're calling it a dramedy," says Kayner, who is directing the production and staging the play in conjunction with the Old Pueblo Playwrights.

"A lot of absurdist stuff is tragic/comic," he says.

" I think this has the comedy out front, but there's pathos underneath."

Kayner directs the production and he hopes audiences will respond - one way or another.

"I wanted to ... see if it flies," he says.

"My hope is we'll get feedback and refine it and see if we can't get it on its merry way into the big, cruel world."

If you go

• What: "Hokey Pokey."

• Playwright/director: Gavin Kayner.

• Presented by: Piquant Plays Production in association with Old Pueblo Playwrights.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; continues through Oct. 28.

• Where: Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

• Tickets: $20. Cash or check only.

• Reservations/info: 297-3317.

• Cast: Jared Stokes, Victor Bowleg, Jacob Brown, tNick Salyer.

• Running time: About two hours, with one intermission.