“It’s good to have a friend.”

“It’s good to be a friend”

Those two lines come from the middle of David Mamet’s The Duck Variations. Mamet’s first play, written when he was a very young man, is a deceptively simple comedy/play about two old guys sitting on a bench and waxing poetic about a myriad of things, most specifically the meaning of life and death. And to be clear, about 98 percent of everything they say is either confused or muddled or just plain wrong (which is why this show is mostly a comedy). And yet, occasionally they hit on an eternal truth, like the quote above about the need to have someone to recognize your existence – so that when you die, when your tree metaphorically falls in the forest, someone does indeed hear it.

So there these two old guys are, trudging forward together, striving to find words to clarify the meaning of the 65-75 years they have spent on this earth, knowing that time in their cases is a very scarce resource and, like most of us, babbling a lot of B.S. to cover the fact that when you get right down to it, none of us really know anything.

This bittersweet comedy serves as Act One for the evening, and I am pleased to be playing one of the old geezers (on the stage, and unfortunately, in real life as well) opposite one of my real-life oldest friends, Bob Sutton. Bob and I played George and Lenny in the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s 1981 production, Of Mice and Men, and although we have been friends for 35 years, we never again found ourselves on stage together. Until now. This is our second show together, and you shouldn’t miss it because, if we hold to our pattern, the next time we act together will be 2051 (and the venue for the show will be on the other bank of the river Styx).

Edward Albee is another great American playwright from the late 20th century who, like Mamet, will continue to be taught in theater history courses as long as that subject is studied. And Albee, again like Mamet, wrote one of his first plays as a one-act, and set it on a park bench. The Zoo Story, however, is more concerned with how we connect with one another as we live our lives rather than looking back at one’s time spent on the earth and searching for the meaning of it. And I would argue that in a society where we seem to be more and more sharply divided by a plethora of things (race, political party affiliation, economic class, etc.) Albee’s 1959 play still feels vital and relevant.

Two very different men meet in the park. Their backgrounds and experience of what America is could not be more different. But one of them decides he must make a connection with someone. And so he goes on a walkabout in New York City, searching for a meaningful connection, which he finds on a park bench in Central Park. This funny, startling play is expertly brought to life by Reuben Albaugh and Albert T. Brownlee.

Two Plays on a Bench previews on Thursday, January 14 at 7:30 p.m. (all seats $12) and runs Fridays and Saturdays, January 15-30 at 7:30 pm. There is one Sunday matinee, January 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $18 for patrons age 65-plus and free for full-time students with a reservation ($10 if bought at the door). Box office hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. You can also buy tickets at www.firstpresbyteriantheater.com, or walk up to the box office at least 15 minutes prior to curtain.