Photo: Rachel Ellis
Photo: Rachel Ellis

Unexpected Stage Company’s Oblivion Tackles the Nature of Belief

What happens when you take a laid-back approach to parenting and, out of the blue, your child decides to become a Christian? What do you do? What do you say? These questions and more are investigated in Unexpected Stage Company’s rendition of Oblivion (from writer Carly Mensch of Orange is the New Black, GLOW and Weeds fame), coming to Bethesda this Thursday.

The story follows Pam and Dixon, a couple whose 16-year-old daughter Julie decides to become a Christian, causing some discomfort in their “secular, philosophical approach to parenting.” On Tap had the chance to speak with Chris Goodrich and Rachel Stroud-Goodrich, the married duo behind the company, and Mindy Shaw, who plays Pam, about the upcoming production.

On Tap: What drew you and Chris to Oblivion?
Rachel Stroud-Goodrich: Part of our mission is to represent underrepresented voices in theater. Participating in the 2015 Women’s Voices Theater Festival served to heighten this awareness, and it is something we kept in mind as we were planning for this summer’s show. But ultimately, you must fall in love with a script. After reading script after script, and still not having a play to announce, we read Carly Mensch’s piece and fell for it within the first scene.

OT: How do you divide responsibilities between the two of you?
Chris Goodrich: Rachel and I have divided responsibilities, but we are both artistic directors. And as such, [we] both have input on the creative choices of a production or season. I tend to direct the shows and Rachel, to her vast credit, tends to manage the company. She is so good at it!

OT: Have you experienced any challenges in bringing this script to life?
CG: Bringing this script to life has been a delight and a joy. We want to make sure that we are getting it right, that we are serving the play. So it can be challenging to figure out what the playwright’s intentions are at times. But these actors and designers are so creative and so professional, it has been a joy to watch their creative spirits unfold.

OT: What’s it like working with Unexpected Stage Company’s husband-wife team?
Mindy Shaw: I’ve never worked with a company that’s had that exact dynamic, and it is phenomenal. They are conscientious and patient, and just lovely human beings who are wonderfully professional at the same time, which is a rare mix.

OT: What can audiences expect from Oblivion?
MS: It will leave you thinking about marital relationships, parent-child relationships, teenage growing pains and certainly religion.

OT: What do you think will surprise people?
CG: An exposed family being tender with each other, attempting to learn [about] each other, [and] attempting to value who they are and what they discover about the other. Hopefully, this is reflection of us.
RSG: The show is very honest. No one is supposed to be a role model. They are flawed but lovable, relatable human characters. No one is completely right or wrong. I think this is something we are used to in theater, but it doesn’t often extend to honest talks about religion and atheism.

Oblivion runs from July 13 to August 6 at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation Building. General admission tickets start at $18.

River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation Building – Fireside Room: 6301 River Rd. Bethesda, MD; 301-337-8290; www.unexpectedstage.org