Lighten this tax season with ‘Love, Sex & the IRS’

THE POST-SIGNAL / Saja Hoffpauir
Cast members of the Acadia Players’ upcoming production of “Love, Sex & the IRS” include, front row from left, Waylon Gotte, Chris Pridgeon, Amanda Caldwell, Aaron Bertrand; back row, Patty Ronkartz, Robert Taunton, Megan Broussard, Ashley Turner and Tiffany Reed. Also appearing, but not pictured, are Katt Barousse and Luke Arsement (who plays the role of Justice of the Peace Arnold Grunion).

BY SAJA HOFFPAUIR

LIFESTYLES EDITOR

Perhaps the best thing about the Acadia Players’ latest production, “Love, Sex & the IRS,” is that no matter what you expect, it’s not what you get. From the script or from the cast.

The play, written by William Van Zandt and Jane Milmore, and produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc., tells the tale of Jon Trachtman (Aaron Bertrand) and Leslie Arthur (Chris Pridgeon), a couple of young, out-of-work bachelor musicians who room together in Manhattan.

It opens with Leslie on the couch getting hot and heavy with one Kate Dennis, who just so happens to be not only Jon’s girlfriend, but also his fiancée. Apparently the two believe themselves to be in love, and the only thing standing between them is Kate’s failure to tell Jon, who is not expected to respond well, about their romance.

In walks Jon, excited about having booked a gig for their band and so self-centered that he is oblivious to the shenanigans of Leslie and Kate. But his mood is soon dampened when he receives a call from Internal Revenue Service agent Floyd Spinner (Robert Taunton), who has discovered a discrepancy regarding his wife’s filing history and needs to schedule an interview for the next day.

His wife? Yes, his wife. In an attempt to avoid paying the tax man his due, Jon has conveniently turned Leslie into a woman and made her his wife instead of his roommate. At this point, given his own secret, Leslie has no choice but to participate in the charade, dressing in drag for their meeting with the IRS agent.

Jon and Leslie, with Kate as an accomplice, are soon met with a variety of obstacles in their attempt to fool Spinner, including a nosy, boorish landlord (Mr. Jansen, played by Waylon Gotte), Jon’s mother, who has appeared with her suitcase for a surprise visit, and Leslie’s girlfriend, Connie.

Leslie’s girlfriend? Yes, his girlfriend. The play is filled with so many plot twists and turns that even an audience member with ESP could not see them all coming.

The fact that this play is relatively complicated makes the performances of its cast members, most of whom are relative new-comers to the stage, that much more impressive.

Pridgeon comes close to stealing the show with his portrayal of Leslie Arthur. Not afraid of the stage, he handily embraces the physical comedy required of his character and plays well off of his co-stars. Pridgeon essentially pulls off a Vince-Vaughn-type role with a style worthy of Vaughn himself.

Bertrand is perfectly cast as Jon. With close-cropped hair, a physique on the athletic side and a couple of tattoos, he looks like a man who would not respond well to news that his girlfriend was cheating. Additionally, his voice and mannerisms lend themselves well to the portrayal of Jon and Leslie’s urban  culture, and in the end his character is worthy of a spot on “Jersey Shore.”

In the role of sad sack IRS agent Spinner, Taunton works hard to play a lecherous character that is nevertheless likeable and remains clueless until the end. It is not an easy role, but Taunton gamely meets the challenge.

Interestingly, two separate casts will fill the female roles in the production. April 10 through 13, viewers can expect to see Katt Barousse as Kate Dennis, Patty Ronkartz as Vivian Trachtman (Jon’s mother) and Megan Broussard as Leslie’s girlfriend Connie. April 24 through 27, the stage will see Amanda Caldwell, Tiffany Reed and Ashley Turner, respectively, in those roles.

The audiences that see Caldwell as Kate will see an actor who is relaxed and comfortable in her role. Reed will do a good job as Jon’s disapproving mother, and Turner will do well as the hapless Connie.

Lastly, but not leastly, Gotte’s portrayal of the landlord Jansen is downright fun, and Gotte could give Henry Rollins a run for his money when it comes to playing a clod-like character.

In the end, these young actors are all very serious about their roles, and their level of investment in the success of this play is no joke. 

“Love, Sex & the IRS” is being directed by Jimmy Broussard, with P.E. Ronkartz as assistant director. Producer Shawn Murphy LaCroix will handle lights and sound.

Performances are set for 7 p.m. on April 10-12, 23 - 24 and 26, with special 2 p.m. matinees on April 13 and 27, at the Acadia Parish Center for the Arts & Culture, 530 W. Mill St. in Crowley. 

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students with ID’s. Tickets are available at Crowley Flower Shop, www.theacadiaplayers.com or at the door prior to the show.

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