Longmont playwright Marq Del Monte’s “The Intervention: A comedy about grief and mental health” made its first stage premier Thursday evening. The two-act play earned laughs from the opening-night crowd with its light-hearted touch to subjects of loss and isolation.
“The Intervention” runs through Sept. 10 on Jesters Dinner Theatre’s stage. Since Jesters put its building up for sale in April, it discontinued its own season and is lending its stage to local productions.
Del Monte’s play differs from what usually graced the dinner theatre. Instead of family-friendly musicals, “The Intervention” offers a play for more mature audiences. Its cast of six and single set design takes a minimal approach while still painting a full picture of the lead character’s world.
“The Intervention” is a psyche and character-driven story following Rick (Andrew Seller), a 32-year-old paralegal with a large collection of pop-culture memorabilia. Feeling untethered with no one to talk to since his father died, Rick creates an unlikely imaginary friend named Gene (Del Monte). After a long period of befriending Gene, Rick’s family — along with a woman his mom just met on the bus — stages an intervention.
When Del Monte first wrote “The Intervention,” his focus was on comedy. He said his wife Tamara and the director Robert “Dutch” Salaz pointed out that there was a deeper message behind the script.
“I didn't write this with the intention of it being any sort of true statement about mental health. I wrote it to be a comedy with some poignancy in it,” Del Monte said. “It was my wife and subsequently Robert who said this really makes a statement about mental health.”
Though “The Intervention” isn’t without one-liners, it leans heavily into the recurring jokes. Gene is a human-sized manifestation of one of Rick’s many toys. Though Del Monte wants the image of his character to be a surprise, his non-human form lends itself to many quips. Rick is often shocked by the outlandish things Gene says, while Gene continuously reminds him that he is a creation of his subconscious.
Del Monte put his personal stamp on “The Intervention” with the play sometimes becoming meta at times and in on its own joke. He said many of the moments in the play are direct reflections of his life. Even the characters including Rick, and the lead’s mother Patty (Kate Satten) and twin sister Tammy (Dallas Slankard) are representative of his own family.
The promotional poster is Del Monte’s signature, using a Del Monte Foods Inc. brand can of corn — a recurring prop that his character Gene uses throughout the show.
With the characters and interactions pulled from Del Monte’s life, he has a unique vantage point playing the imaginary friend Gene. Playing a nonexistent character in both his life and the ”The Intervention’s” storyline, allows Del Monte to be a part of the audience, finding joy in all the show’s absurdity.
“My character is the only one who isn't or doesn't have anything to do with my personal experience. It's Rick, the main character, it's his mom and sister. They're the ones who are telling stories from my life,” Del Monte said.
By the end of the show, Rick says goodbye to a childhood friend and invests deeper into his relationship with Gene, prompting Tammy and Patty to stage the intervention. Rick has a breakthrough, letting his family into why he needed to create a fake friend. He didn’t feel like anyone else could be his confidant after his dad. His family comes to their own revelation as they begin understanding where Rick is coming from.
“The Intervention” manages to laugh about mental health, without making it the butt of the joke. Some of the best comedy derives from pain, Salaz said on directing “The Intervention.” He hopes that between the laughs, audiences leave the theater with a deeper takeaway.
“I hope it allows people to, one, open up about their own mental health — and I shorten that to just open up about your thoughts and feelings to the people that you care about and that you know care about you,” he said. “But more importantly, is be open to when other people — the people that you care for — want to talk about their thoughts and feelings and their mental health. Be open to those conversations, no matter what they're going to hold. Because you never know how individuals cope.”
“The Intervention: A comedy about grief and mental health” shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at Jesters Dinner Theatre from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10. Admission is $15 with doors open at 6 p.m.