Horror and twisted humor collide in Curious Theater’s production of ‘The Minutes’

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Actors in Curious Theater’s artistic company rehearse a dramatic scene from The Minutes, the company’s 2023 season opener.

Anyone who's watched a few city council sessions knows they're better for falling asleep than keeping you glued to the screen. 

But Curious Theatre’s season opener, a new Tracy Letts play set during a small-town council meeting, shows municipal government can indeed deliver both brutal drama and unexpected comedy.

The play opens with the council trying to approve the official record of their recent meeting. The body’s newest member, returning from an absence, questions what happened to the minutes from the last meeting, and why one of their colleagues seems to have disappeared along with them. From there, the evening unfolds into a meticulously constructed horror show, dripping with the original sins of American democracy.

Artistic producer and director Christy Montour-Larson, says as soon as she and Curious’ new artistic director Jada Suzanne Dixon read this play, they knew it was perfect for their audiences, and this was the time to produce it. 

“We just couldn't help but realize what a very funny play this is. And our audiences have asked us to please consider more comedies in our season,” said Montour-Larson. “So right then it had us. It also has a very important political thought and message to it, which of course fits right in the Curious DNA.”

Eden Lane/CPR News
Members of Curious Theater's artistic company rehearse The Minutes, a play that blends satire and horror to explore the dark side of American history.

"The Minutes" has also allowed the company to do something it’s never done before: cast the entire play solely from its artistic company. 

“I think our audiences are going to love seeing this big cast, seeing all their Curious favorites in unique and funny, wonderful roles.” Montour-Larson said. 

Company member Karen Slack plays the scattered, skittish, and heavily medicated Ms. Matz, chairperson of the Council Rules Committee. She compares "The Minutes" to dramas like Jordan Peele’s films like Get Out and Nope. 

"What I really love about this play specifically is that it is exceedingly funny, until it's not," Slack said. “Everything is going fine until all of a sudden you're in a world that you didn't anticipate that you were in and had no idea that you were sort of complicit as the audience.”

"The Minutes" originally premiered in 2017 at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago before going on to a run on Broadway, although its opening was delayed more than two years because of the pandemic. It was nominated for the Tony for Best Play in 2022. Curious’ production will be the play’s regional premier. 

Satire, like "The Minutes," is the most dangerous form of comedy, according to Josh Robinson, who plays the newest — and most dangerously inquisitive — council member, Dr. Brian Peel. 

“Because it speaks truth to power and that makes power uncomfortable. And that's what this play does, and it's how you're still living in a free country so that we can do it,“ Robinson said. “I think if you are following politics in this country, you can't help but see all the parallels in the microcosm that is this play. And I think you recognize yourself, you recognize people you run into or disagree with or possibly agree with. And that recognition, I think, is a joy in the theater.”

Eden Lane/CPR News
Curious Theater's season opener, The Minutes, unfolds inside a small town's city council chambers.

As the play’s revelations pile up, the character of Mayor Superba waves away his colleagues’ qualms with the excuse, "Democracy's messy."

“And just those two words can mean so much,” said the actor playing Superba, Michael McNeill. “And it does in this play because, what is democracy? Who owns democracy? Does it really belong to the people or does it belong to a small section of people who then trickle it down to the people? So it's a messy business, so to speak.”

“This play is about the kooky machinations of government and city council, but it's also an allegory about what kind of community do we want to live in and what kind of future do we want to have for our children,” noted Montour-Larson. “Curious can deal with weighty topics in a humorous way also. “

Whose history is told and who’s forgotten is at the heart of "The Minutes."

The play opens Curious Theatre Company’s 26th season on Sept. 9 and runs through Oct. 14. Curious Theatre is located at 1080 Acoma St. in Denver.