Invisible Theatre has some old-fashioned romance sprinkled with humor in mind.
The company opens Kenny Finkle’s “Alive and Well” next week. It tells the story of a couple searching for the oldest living Civil War veteran and finding much more than that.
Susan Claassen, director and IT’s managing artistic director, says the play is in the spirit of the golden age of Hollywood’s great romantic comedies, such as “Romancing the Stone” and “African Queen.”
“It looks for the common ground,” said Claassen. “An unlikely pair comes together and find that they do have things in common, and I think that it’s an important message for the ages, but especially now.”
Finkle’s inspiration for “Alive and Well” came from research he had started for another play, that one about the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
It never materialized, but Finkle ended up with a lot of material and ideas about the Civil War, and he didn’t know what to with it — until he hit upon the idea for this 2010 piece.
“I just sort of fell in love with history and in particular looking at the Civil War through the lens of how those issues that are still playing out in society today,” Finkle said in a phone interview.
The story centers on big-city reporter Carla Keenan, a northerner, and southern Civil War re-enactor Zachariah Clemenson. The two venture along Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s path from Petersburg to Appomattox.
Finkle traveled to the Appomattox courthouse, a road trip that led him to get terribly lost and then to an ashram before finally arriving at the spot where the confederates surrendered.
He described the ashram as an intense experience where it was all about meditating and surrendering yourself to your body and the world. The experience made him think about what surrender is and what it means in our lives both negatively and positively.
“The two characters come to life and need to surrender something in order to move forward in their lives,” Finkle said. “Their pride and fear is what gets in the way with surrender and what they battle with each other and inside themselves.”
The two-character play was a challenge to write; he was determined that the audience cares for, likes, and feels empathy for each of his characters.
“It’s easy for people to take a side and say ‘liberals are crazy’ or ‘conservatives are terrible,’ ” Finkle said. “Some of the challenge is to let the characters fight about those things that allow us to care for them, laugh with them and not judge them.”