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Cup of Joe

"Java Tacoma: Episode 38" feels like a familiar joke, and manages to keep the audience laughing

The cast of "Java Tacoma: Episode 38," left to right: Demetrick Lewis, Mick Flaaen, Samantha Comp, Aya Hashiguci, Clark and Betzy Miller. Photo courtesy Jason Ganwich

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Going into Trinity Presbyterian Church to see the original play, Java Tacoma: Episode 38, by local (Federal Way) author Curtis B. Swanson, almost seems like the set up or start of a joke.

"So this preacher, writer and actor walk into a bar ..."

Instead, patrons walked into the fellowship hall and were encouraged to take free coffee from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters and baked goods. The seats were set up in two long rows and on the same level as the acting space - helping to pull the audience into the performance. There wasn't a ton of seating, but all the seats were filled.

The soap opera comedy utilizes a small ensemble cast and simple staging to tell a story of the "friends, neighbors and siblings" of Perky's coffee shop. Opening up the show, Kate (Betzy Miller) hit the stage with a PSA about Tacoma's atrocious neighbor to the north, Federal Way. Then the actors gave a whirlwind recap of Episode 37, and we learned that Perky's had lost its lease and the owners were forced to relocate.

The majority of the play was a pretty straight forward comedy, awash with references to all things Tacoma - the Murray Morgan Bridge, Tacoma Dome, Union Station, LeMay Car Museum, Point Defiance Zoo and Pho King included. There were moments of soap opera contrivances throughout Java Tacoma: Episode 38, but thankfully the actors were able to pull off the script and had the audience laughing throughout the hour-long performance.

Since the actors were practically in the audience's lap, there was no need for microphones and the actors all projected quite well. The simple set design and lighting enhanced the performance. Recorded music clips as well as original music was used to add more depth to the show.

All the actors were good in their roles, but Samantha Camp's (Jeri) facial expressions and reactions were hilarious to watch. Camp added enough realism to her character (as did nearly all the actors) that it kept the play from being too over the top. Thanks to Dukesbay Productions for bringing such a funny show to Tacoma.

Java Tacoma: Episode 38 “Friends, Neighbors and Siblings

Through Nov. 19, $15, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Trinity Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall
1615 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

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