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Playhouse in the Park introduces you to survivors of the Jonestown Massacre

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You might think that the idea of twins and secrets and strange relationships are old hat these days, but in truth the idea of such perfectly similar siblings still holds a fascination. In Hiding Behind Comets, playwright Brian Dykstra explores the bonds of twinship and family in an intense, emotional story. Initially selected as the Fifteenth Annual Rosenthal New Play Prize Winner, Comets is now simply known as the recipient for this season of the Playhouse’s new play prize, as Lois and Richard Rosenthal withdrew their support of the prize in a surprising announcement this past the autumn. While the Rosenthals were not entirely clear as to their reasons for the sudden decision, the Playhouse indicated that the reason was the patrons’ discomfort with both the process that led to the play’s selection as well as the nature of the content. Regardless of the Rosenthals’ reaction to Comets this new play is a must-see.

Honey and Troy are the twins in question: young and brash. Their mostly normal lives haven’t prepared them for the evening when Cole comes into their bar, asking pointed questions about their memories and parentage. While Troy and his girlfriend have sex offstage, Honey describes to Cole the feelings of sexual surrogacy she shares with her brother and the arousal she feels when he is engaged in sex. Cole, in return, offers up an equally personal story to Honey. A guard at the Jonestown colony, Cole witnessed the mass murder-suicides that took place there in 1978. Honey, for all of her bravado, is shocked, but not nearly as much as when Cole reveals the rest of his story. While the children of the colony were murdered and adults drank down their own cups of cyanide-laced punch, Cole’s pregnant wife escaped the colony and later gave birth to twins. She is the mother of Honey and Troy. In coming to their small Northern California town, Cole is reaching and end to a search — his quest is to discover whether Honey and Troy are his children — or those of cult leader Jim Jones.

Hiding Behind Comets is a well-constructed, tightly wound drama with a plausible but edgy twists to keep the audience completely fixed on the unfolding story until the very last moments of the performance. For Cincinnati’s more sophisticated arts crowd, it will be an outstanding hit. Audiences should know that due to the mature nature of the play, no one under eighteen will be admitted. The Playhouse also warns that there is a certain amount of strong language and sexual references. There is one graphic act of violence depicted on the stage, and cigarettes may be smoked on stage. The events at the Jonestown cult colony are central to the story, and Cole presents a vivid description of these. While perhaps not for the faint-hearted or easily offended, Hiding Behind Comes is nonetheless a highly recommended event.

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