Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Tap is an underdog story, and who doesn't love that

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2018 at 1:00 AM

click to enlarge The Tap, Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m., through Nov. 25, 
Millibo Art Theatre, 1626 S. Tejon St., $18-$25, themat.org. - MILLIBO ART THEATRE
  • Millibo Art Theatre
  • The Tap, Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m., through Nov. 25, 
Millibo Art Theatre, 1626 S. Tejon St., $18-$25, themat.org.
Local playwright and actor Steve Emily, who once made his home in Chicago, has seen many neighborhoods change the way many areas of our own city have begun changing. New businesses turn neglected neighborhoods into trendy hotspots, and local establishments like bars and restaurants either fade away or transform into the next big thing. “And I just kind of thought, well, what happens to those people who have been going there for years and years?” Emily says. “Because they’re not going to feel comfortable in whatever this new place is. So where do they end up going?”

That thought formed the basis of The Tap, Emily’s original play, which will premiere at the Millibo Art Theatre this weekend. The Tap follows a bartender named Mike who has inherited the bar from his family and has to weigh its importance to its patrons against his opportunity to change with the times. But more than a story about gentrification, The Tap is a story about Mike’s regulars, three of whom appear at the bar on Christmas Eve, bringing their own baggage with them. “I’ve always been kind of attracted to those people on the outskirts who just kind of live their lives and don’t really make an impression,” Emily says. “It’s an underdog story. And who doesn’t love an underdog?”

These regulars — an older cab driver, a faded beauty queen and a woman suffering in an abusive marriage — are certainly underdogs, but they’re 
relatable in their own ways.
“The issues that [The Tap] touches on are quite relevant to today,” says director Jim Jackson. “There’s a whole spouse abuse thing, there’s a whole drug addiction thing. There’s just a lot of things which everyday people bump up against, some in really big ways.”

But in spite of heavy themes like gentrification and abuse, it isn’t necessarily a dark play. Nor does it promise the kind of cloying, saccharine schmaltz of many stories set around the holidays.

“It’s got a rawness to it,” Jackson says, “and a realness, a grittiness to it, but it’s not cynical.” Both he and Emily compare its effect to that of a Tom Waits song.

After the show each night, to encourage the same sense of community that unites these characters at their neighborhood bar, the MAT encourages attendees to come down to the stage after the show, and enjoy a free beer on the set with the actors (provided by a different local brewery each weekend). It should help us all adhere to Emily’s advice: “Look up every now and then, and notice your neighbors.”

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