BLOOMSBURG — Good heavens! By Jove! My word!
The wealthy gents at a stuffy old boys club in 1879 London are suddenly confronted with two creatures they find strangely foreign.
One is a native from some faraway, tropical place who speaks his own language. The other is the British woman who brought this aboriginal person to jolly old England and wants to join their club.
Whom will they find easier to accept?
“To me, it’s kind of in the script that they find the woman stranger,” said Leigh Strimbeck, who is directing “The Explorers Club” for the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble through Oct. 7. “After all, HE gets invited for brandy and cigars, but SHE doesn’t.”
Despite the less than welcoming attitude, anthropologist Phyllida wants to become the first woman to join The Explorers Club.
“She’s brilliant. She’s just a wonderful character,” Strimbeck said. “I get such a kick out of her, the way she gets marginalized and then, in the second act, there’s a twist that happens between her and the ‘savage character’ and that’s so wonderful … but I don’t want to give away too much.”
The director paused during a telephone interview, uncertain how much to reveal about a zany plot that has been described as a “wildly hilarious send up of science, sexism and changing times.”
Then she hit upon a way to offer just enough of a hint:
“When we do warmups we say ‘snakey, snakey, stabby, stabby, kiss, kiss,’ ” she said. “In that phrase is contained some of my favorite moments.”
“There’s also a very complicated thing that happens with the the bar and a bunch of drinks,” she said, praising the set designer, tech crew and actors for being able to pull it off.
The play was written by author Nell Benjamin, of “Legally Blonde” fame, who took the extra step of designing a lexicon for the aboriginal person’s language.
“It’s kind of cool,” Strimbeck said, offering an example of a word: ” ‘Anakongi’ means ‘enemy,’ and that’s important, who is an anakongi and who isn’t.”
Strimbeck, who spent 12 years acting and directing with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble before becoming an artist-in-residence and teacher at Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y., is guest-directing the show, which allows the entire ensemble (Richard Cannaday, Elizabeth Dowd, James Goode, Andrew Hubatsek, Laurie McCants, Daniel Roth and Eric Wunsch) to act in it.
“I’m so happy to be back,” the director said. ” I really, really missed the quality and the commitment to work that they have here.”
“It’s so fun to be directing what is pure comedy, and a lot of physical comedy,” she added. “It’s almost Monty Python-esque.”
“When times can feel a little stressful and fraught, for whatever reason, it’s nice to think, ‘at least tonight, I can take a break from responsibility and just laugh,’ ” she said. “If you know someone who doesn’t normally go to theater, this would be a good show for them.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT