July 20, 2019

The show goes on in St. Albans > Soaked amphitheater is standing-room-only

WEST ATHENS — The In Spite of Life Players’ annual gravel pit production was again the focus of the community’s wacky Fourth of July celebration, in spite of a stage and seating area that was a quagmire.

Overnight rains turned the seating area into a muddy pit, but the audience — like the actors — improvised, and stood for the performance.

Prefaced by a parade where anything goes, the play, “Spud Barbie’s Ire,” was set in the S.D. Dizznex Spa Mall, founded by three members of the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms department as a vantage point to spy on a nearby Freeman compound. In spite of this, it played well to the standing-room-only crowd.

Throughout the play, oftentimes more ad lib in spite of a prepared script, presidential candidates and others wandered through the mall, which featured a giant automatic teller machine and a pair of outrageous beauticians busy making over the politicians in spite of themselves.

The In Spite of Life Players, an enduring group of nontraditionalists in spite of their traditional annual production, seek truth through satire, poking fun at the Establishment in spite of itself.

Tamara Entengin, who has performed in numerous In Spite of Life Productions, said the group has been performing for 25 seasons, in spite of itself.

“We don’t actually rehearse,” she said. “We sort of brainstorm.” The plays, written by the In Spite of Life Players, are always centered on current political activities.

The West Athens parade and play isn’t so much to celebrate the country’s independence, but the independence of free-thinkers and others who choose an alternative lifestyle. In spite of being tongue-in-cheek and often irreverent, the humor is offered in a spirit of fun and — in spite of life’s vicissitudes — in a spirit of survival.

In past seasons, plays have poked fun at the state’s snack tax and the Sears Island cargo port. Another featured Ronald Raygun as a game show contestant with Gen. Gadhafi and Yasser Arafat.

“The War on Broccoli” showcased a family destroyed by a president’s prejudice against a vegetable. In spite of the slickness of the costuming, actors dressed as oily sea birds enacted the effects of the Exxon Alaskan oil spill on themselves.

It’s a tradition that may well endure into the future — in spite of life.

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