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Dead best friend, stuffed parrot make 'Come Back' a unique live show

Commonweal's production of "Come Back" deals with death, mourning and a needy parrot.

Come Back 01.JPG
Jeremy van Meter, as Sky, speaks with Erin, played by Jaclyn Johnson in rehearsal for "Come Back" Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 at Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro. John Molseed / Post Bulletin

LANESBORO — In “Come Back,” Jeremy van Meter plays a man named Sky who is dragging a parrot across the country after his best friend died.

You’d think van Meter would get lonely on the stage.

The recently departed Erin is played onstage by the very lively Jaclyn Johnson. However, Bruce the parrot is not as animated. He’s played by a stuffed African grey parrot, and voiced by Brandt Roberts through a speaker in the birdcage.

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Erin and Bruce lead Sky on the trip, in which they encounter dozens of other people and places.

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The play, written by Neil Haven, explores death and how we grieve by following Sky’s attempts to fulfill Erin’s wishes for what to do with her remains. Erin’s estranged father has other plans.

The show opens Saturday at Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro.

Come Back 02.JPG
Jeremy van Meter, left, as Sky, Ashley Graham, center, and Hal Cropp in in rehearsal for "Come Back" Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 at Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro. John Molseed / Post Bulletin

Sky finds himself out of his comfort zone and out of his element, which, ultimately, was Erin’s plan.

“Her mission is to make her best friend come out of his shell, embrace life, enjoy life,” said Adrienne Sweeney, Commonweal associate artistic director and director of the show. “To me, it’s a supreme act of love.”

Cast member Hal Cropp said the show challenges how our society deals with death and mourning.

“This play really celebrates an alternative look at that,” he said. “It deals with these things, in my opinion, in a more soulful way.”

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Sweeney said she saw a production performed at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

“It’s not an easy play,” she said. “It deals with very challenging topics.”

“Quirky” moments and good comedic writing add humanity and enjoyment to the serious topics, she added. Bruce helps inject some of that comedy.

“Bruce is a fully fleshed out character,” Sweeney said.

“He still has lines, he still wants things,” said cast member Ashley Graham, who is making her Commonweal debut. “Usually, it’s a peanut.”

Come Back 03.JPG
Ashley Graham, left, Jeremy van Meter, center, and Jaclyn Johnson, right, as Hal Cropp looks on in rehearsal for "Come Back" Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 at Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro. John Molseed / Post Bulletin

Having a real bird on stage would have been “a disaster,” she added.

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Van Meter said reacting to Bruce onstage has been easy. He said it reminded him of having to react to a hand puppet in the show “Fuddy Meers.”

The part of Sky is challenging and rewarding, he added.

“It’s an actor’s play,” he said.

Sweeney said the show will prompt plenty of laughter and tears.

“Which seems appropriate right now,” she said.

If you go

What: “Come Back”

When: Opens Saturday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Sunday, Nov. 14, at 1 p.m. See commonwealtheatre.org for details.

Where: Commonweal Theatre Company, 208 Parkway Ave. N., Lanesboro

Tickets: C all 800-657-7025 or 507-467-2525, or email tickets@commonwealtheatre.org.

Additional information: Masks are required for all attendees.

Related Topics: THEATERLANESBORO
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