On stage Famous trio flings zingers in 'Camping'
By Gerald M. Gay
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Had Thomas Edison been around to celebrate his birthday Wednesday night, he might have enjoyed watching himself in Invisible Theatre's production of "Camping with Henry and Tom."
He would have totally been into Roberto Guajardo's curmudgeonly portrayal, complete with the slow-going movements of an elderly Edison and a no-nonsense mope.
He might have even chuckled out loud along with the rest of the audience at the sarcastic zingers and one-liners Mark St. Germain wrote into the script for the prolific inventor.
Brian Wees, bottom, is a secret service agent, Roger Owen is Warren Harding and James Blair plays Henry Ford in IT's production.
Tim Fuller / Courtesy of Invisible Theatre
The play finds Edison, carmaker Henry Ford (James Blair) and President Warren G. Harding (Roger Owen) lost in the forest on a camping trip in 1921.
The three sneak out of a more formal encampment full of reporters to escape the public eye and end up hitting a deer that sends them crashing into the woods.
"You're the first man in history to try and assassinate a president with wildlife," Edison tells Ford shortly after the incident, the first of many ha-ha's weaved into this entertaining two-hour production based loosely on real events.
The camping trip actually happened. The rest of the scenario, from the great escape to all that followed, is a product of St. Germain's imagination.
His vision is a scene straight out of "The Breakfast Club," with all three men exposing their innermost flaws and emotions to one another by the campfire light.
Edison is quick-witted, but he is growing old and has lost all faith in politics and modern science.
Harding would rather be back in the Senate playing poker with his buddies than make decisions as president.
And Ford quickly reveals himself to be the jerk of the group. He has visions of grandeur and daddy issues. He is anti-Semitic and wants two things from Harding: a hydroelectric plant in Muscle Shoals, Ala., for next-to-nothing and to one day be president.
Ford's enthusiasm and exuberance turn into insults and blackmail when Harding doesn't immediately bend to his will.
"If you are not my friend, you are my enemy," Ford says to Harding well after revealing a team of researchers has been digging up dirt on ole Wobbly Warren.
The production, directed by Betsy Kruse Craig, is solid entertainment. Blair, Owen and Guajardo are convincing in their roles, and each adds a different dimension of character to the mix.
One of the play's strong points is its ability to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The country is shell-shocked from war. The president, who never wanted to be president in the first place, is a goof-off who fools around on his wife.
They are scenarios that have been as common over the last 20 years as they were in the 1920s.
"Camping with Henry and Tom"
• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
• Playwright: Mark St. Germain.
• Director: Betsy Kruse Craig.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 28. There also will be a 3 p.m. matinee on Feb. 28.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Reservations/information: 882-9721.
Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at 573-4137 or firstname.lastname@example.org