published Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Circle Stage satire 'The Book of Liz' examines the pull of a cheeseball

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LeBron Benton

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Home is apparently where the cheeseball is.

That's what the main character may or may not find out in "The Book of Liz," a comedy by David and Amy Sedaris that opens today on the Circle Stage of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.

"It's an equal opportunity offender," director LeBron Benton said of the satire, which skewers, among others, the Amish, Ukrainians, waiters, alcoholics and gays. "It's not (done) offensively. They use stereotypes for humorous purposes to tell the story."

At the heart of the work by the writer brother/actress sister is Sister Elizabeth Donderstock, a member of the Squeamish community -- think Amish, but different -- who's feeling unappreciated in spite of the popularity of her cheeseballs.

Deciding to leave her cloistered community of Clusterhaven, she runs into an immigrant couple, who find her a job in a restaurant populated almost entirely by recovering alcoholics. Ultimately, her unfortunate sweating problem may keep her from getting a promotion.

Back in her cloistered community, though, the Squeamish are having a devil of a problem replicating Sister Donderstock's cheeseballs. That, of course, sets up the age-old problem of whether it's more important to stop the sweat and stir the soup or embrace the cheeseball that brung you.

"My actors are having a hard time keeping a straight face," said Benton. "What they're doing is so ridiculously funny."

The production uses six actors to play 15 characters, so the change of roles -- sometimes quickly -- adds to the humor, he said.

"It's fun to see them," Benton said. "You might not even know it's the same actor."

The director said the broad comedy is full of surprises and hysterically funny wordplay that sometimes catches audiences members off-guard.

"Everybody will find something funny about it," he said.

The play is recommended for audiences of teenagers and up.


* What: "The Book of Liz."

* When: 8 p.m. today, Saturday, July 30-31, Aug. 6-7.

* Where: Circle Stage, Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

* Admission: $15.

* Phone: 267-8534.

* Website:


Three of the Circle Stage's six performances of "The Book of Liz" offer a little something extra for the playgoer. Tonight, before the opener at 8, complimentary adult beverages and light hors d'oeuvres will be offered. On Friday, July 30, patrons can ask questions and discuss the play at a Talk Back after the show with the cast and director. The final Friday of the run, Aug. 6, complimentary adult beverages and light hors d'oeuvres will be offered on Girls Night Out.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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