Doomsday forecasters have offered plenty of scenarios in recent years, but Kitchen Dog Theater's upcoming production of Barbecue Apocalypse promises to be a funnier account of the end of times than any you've likely heard. The play opens Friday and serves as the centerpiece of the theater's New Works Festival.
Playwright Matt Lyle set out to write a "suburban comedy of manners" about three couples vying for each other's approval and reasoned that a backyard barbecue would be the ideal locale. Drawing further inspiration from the zombie craze, Lyle chose the apocalypse as another comedic lens through which to examine the first-world problems, slights and social insecurities that are at the foreground of Barbecue Apocalypse.
Lyle says the play is fundamentally about "the condition of the modern man or woman and the fact that we don't know how to evaluate ourselves except by comparing ourselves to other people." As the barbecue devolves into chaos, the characters' true natures are revealed, one joke at a time.
"We find out who these characters really are," Lyle says. "When all you have are your basic needs to fulfill, who you are is bound to come out."
BBQ will mark Dallas native Lyle's first collaboration with Kitchen Dog Theater, an experience that he describes as "fantastic." The New Works festival, which is in its 16th incarnation, harvests hundreds of submissions from budding playwrights across the globe each year.
See Also: Get Drunk on Theater at Kitchen Dog Theater's New Works Festival Given the scope of the submissions, this year's mainstage show is remarkably close to home. Those intimate with the Dallas theater scene probably recognize Lyle's name. He and wife Kim founded Bootstraps Comedy Theater, which the Observer once recognized as the best small theater company in Dallas.
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At Bootstraps, Lyle developed a reputation for his comedic talent, receiving particularly strong reviews for The Boxer, a take on silent films. When asked how Barbecue Apocalypse differs from his past work, Lyle acknowledges that while the story clearly unfolds in his comedic voice, it's more mature. "As I'm growing up as a person, I'm also growing up as a writer. I have more intricate, harder stories to tell."
Although Lyle's family has since moved to Chicago, taking Bootstraps Comedy Theater there with them, they plan to return in the fall and look forward to rejoining Dallas' growing art scene. "The whole new works thing has really hit Dallas," he says. "Larger theaters are realizing that they can't always rely on old canons or what was popular on off-broadway last season, they're realizing that they have a responsibility to discover new plays."
Upon his return, Matt Lyle will surely be a regular contributor to Dallas theater. In the meantime, audiences will be have to be content with Barbecue Apocalypse to chew on.
Barbecue Apocalypse runs at Kitchen Dog Theater May 23-June 21. It is directed by Lee Trull and features actors Michael Federico, Martha Harms, Max Hartman, Barry Nash, Miranda Parham, Leah Spillman and Jeff Swearingen.