Mark Merk, Katie Bechtler, Gary Tipton, Roscoe Henning, & Jaden Berry in Sticks and Bones. Photo:CLT

Sticks and Stones

By Frank Farmer
Directed by Neil Brewer

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Two professors walk into a bar…we all know a cheap joke that starts with a character entering a watering hole of some kind. What happens next either relies on a reveal, a twist, or some other kind of humorous punchline. Clarksville Little Theatre premier of Sticks and Stones explores turns of phrase and wordplay and shows real promise.

Penned by Frank Farmer, a Clarksville native and retired Professor Emeritus of English from the University of Kansas, the script stays funny while showing how language can divide us and bring us together. Set in Zeno’s Bar, and run by its namesake played with frenetic energy by Mike Price, this is a bar that only sells beer and whiskey and has “no drink specials ever.” Immediately, a comfortable and familiar tone is set in this lowly dive where to borrow a phrase, everybody knows your name. That is until two English professors find their way inside this dingy tavern. The script does well to show the juxtaposition between the highly educated and the lowlifes and how neither is better than the other. The professors are bullied and hustled yet their wit is what helps them survive their round at Zeno’s.

The strongest moments of the script rely on smartly timed bits of code-switching. While the professors, Quincy and Cass played Mark Merk and Katie Bechtler, attempt to fit into Zeno’s, they forfeit their sophisticated understanding of the language for hip slang and “downhome jargon.” As Quincy and Cass navigate their unknown environment, Gary Tipton and Roscoe Henning’s skeezy Howard and Angelo determine to prey on the duo with a game of Five Card Draw. Language plays a role in understanding in its own way as Quincy and Cass attempt to comprehend the rules and unknowingly win the game.

Upon the arrival of Rash, played with gusto by Seth Bard, Quincy, and Cass are sent for another loop. Jealous at the idea that Rash’s sometimes girlfriend and Zeno regular, Chrissy might be even thinking about speaking to Quincy, Rash demands a duel. What occurs is a fight of words between Quincy and Rash whispered into Chrissy’s ear. While Chrissy, played with sass and flair by Jaden Berry, provides some wonderfully amusing facial expressions in reaction to different things whispered in her ear, the moment felt like a lost opportunity for some horrendous poetry or butchered sonnets. 

At the curtain speech, Frank Farmer was invited to share a few words about his work. He stated the “title comes from a very famous children’s rhyme,” he added that words can “comfort and console, inspire and sometimes make us laugh.” In this one act about a “fish out of water” what you say can cause quirky incidents you didn’t think were possible.

Featuring Katie Graviss Bechtler, Mark Merk, Mike Price, Gary Tipton, Roscoe Henning, Jaden Berry, Seth Bard, Gabriel Petri

Sticks and Stones

July 28 & 29 @ 7:30 pm
July 30 @ 2:00 pm

Free Admission

Clarksville Little Theatre
301 E. Montgomery Street
Clarksville, IN 47129

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!