Local rivalries are not a new notion in a Gaslight Melodrama show, but for "Shafter vs. Wasco," which opens Friday, differences run deep. But Michael Prince, Gaslight's artistic director, says no matter where your loyalties lie, you're in for a good time.
"We really have a deep love for both Shafter and Wasco and we wanted to celebrate them and their rivalry with respect and humor," Prince wrote about the show in an email.
It's been about five years since the theater has put either community in the spotlight and Prince thought it was prime time to feature both.
In the new show, both towns are living in harmony until the arrival of the evil Hawk Brothers, Sam and Tad, played by Jennifer Prince and Adrian Francies. The dastardly but dimwitted duo learn about the deep-seated rivalry between the communities with some audience participation.
Prince said he didn't want to give away too much of the reveal but shared "with the help of an audience member's phone and Google account, they learn of the rivalry themselves and set off to wreak havoc on both towns."
"They're just plain evil," Prince wrote of the Hawks. "Like The Joker in 'The Dark Knight,' but with less makeup and more laughs!"
He said the comedy builds toward the end of the first act when the Hawk Brothers, now in disguise, begin taking bets from audience members and pitting them against each other as to whomever is rooting for Shafter or Wasco.
"It's a lot of chaotic energy and should be pretty fun when it happens," he wrote.
As the brothers aim to profit from discord, a blooming romance further complicates matters as Shafter Generals head cheerleader Shelby Shafter (Ali Dougherty) and Wasco Tigers star quarterback Wilson Wasco (Justin Salinas) find love in a hopeless place.
The show also stars Michael Kubik and Phil Beglin as head coaches for the Generals and Tigers, respectively.
Prince said he'd like audiences to walk away knowing "it's OK not to take yourself so seriously and in the end, love conquers all."
The melodrama is followed by the vaudeville revue "The 2019 Miss Bodfish Beauty Pageant."
"And it's exactly what you'd think it is," Prince wrote. "A funny, irreverent parody of all things beauty pageant. This is the first time we've done a beauty pageant vaudeville revue and it's a total blast with some 'unexpected' surprises."
"Shafter vs. Wasco" opens this weekend and runs through May 4.