Mixing historic recreations of the Civil War with classic romantic comedies seems a far stretch, but playwright Kenny Finkle was so inspired by the idea he wrote the play "Alive and Well." The romantic comedy, now at the Old Globe March 20 through April 25, pits a big city reporter in need of some good fortune against a roughish Civil War reenactor with anything but romance on his mind.
While researching the Civil War in connection with another writing assignment, Finkle got the inspiration for "Alive and Well."
"When I looked at the past in the context of today, a lot of the issues that were happening during the Civil War are still present today," Finkle said. "We seem to be so divided yet we're still one country."
Classic films used as reference points for "Alive and Well" are "African Queen" and "It Happened One Night."
"The smart and quick dialogue of those films is fun and a real influence on my play," Finkle said. "Like those movies, in my play I enjoy seeing how far we can push these mismatched lovers before they have to get together."
Finkle's plays include "Indoor/Outdoor" (Off Broadway); "Bridezilla Strikes Back" (co-written with Cynthia Silver); "Transatlantica" (The Flea Theater) and "Josh Keenan Comes Out to the World" (Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival and Hangar Theatre School Tour). He feels he's a storyteller because he thinks people want and need to hear stories about love, hope and joy. Finkle strives to make the characters paramount in his stories.
"In the Civil War setting, I had fun creating these interesting characters," Finkle said. "Zach is a Civil War reenactor excellently played by James Knight ("Measure for Measure," "Hamlet"). His foil is Carla, beautifully portrayed by Kelly McAndrew ("Sight Unseen").
They've both appeared at the Globe and are part of a very collaborative team. I wanted actors who could continue to help me develop the play, and they both have helped with that process."
The creative team of "Alive and Well" includes Robin Sanford Roberts (Scenic Design), Shelly Williams (Costume Design), Michael Gottlieb (Lighting Design), Paul Peterson (Sound Design) and Moira Gleason (Stage Manager). Finkle was part of the team who selected Jeremy Dobrish ("Judas and Me," "Election Day") to direct "Alive and Well."
"I've known Jeremy for a long time, and when his name came up, it made sense," Finkle said. "I wanted to work with him and he knows my work. He's a funny, smart director and we have a lot of the same sensibilities. Our collaboration has been so satisfying."
Comedy is a difficult genre to pull off, especially one based on a romance. Many of Finkle's plays are based on comedy. His humor, he said, comes from his family. "My grandmother was a funny lady. She had a little perverse sense of humor and is very goofy. My father also was funny and enjoyed laughing. They both helped form how I see the world."
While the focus of "Alive and Well" is on America as a story about mismatched lovers – the North and South; Finkle wants his audience to understand America is not two separate countries that we need each other at the end of day. He also wants the audience to like the characters.
"That's the most important thing for me," he said. "So if they don't laugh their butts off, I hope they'll come away loving these people."
"Alive and Well"
Where: The Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through April 25. Tickets: $29-$62. (619) 23-GLOBE or www.TheOldGlobe.org