It’s always great when a Ventura County venue debuts a new production. Logan Rica Smith has written a new romantic comedy called “Selling Love” that will be making its premiere at the Elite Theatre Company in Oxnard next weekend. While working in the tight quarters of a small-time soap manufacturing company, two people find love through their shared dreams and the desire to escape their mundane office surroundings. Their romance and hopes for a better life are held at bay by inept management, an impassioned hatchet man, and the mistaken identity of a copier repair technician. In the end, love rises above the muck and dreariness of telephone soap sales, and we see that two hearts that are meant to be together will find one another, no matter what. I spent a few moments talking with Smith about the show.
VCOS: Tell me about your background.
LOGAN: I have been writing since I was young, but first gained an interest in play writing in college. I hold a degree in English Composition and have completed three full-length works for the stage. Selling Love is the first to receive a professional production in California, but I have had a number of one-acts produced, and, on occasion, I have written for film and television. My greatest love is the stage, but the works of Patricia Cornwall, Caryl Churchill, John Osborne, Sir Thomas Malory, and Agatha Christie have all influenced my work in one way or another.
VCOS: When I saw the premise for “Selling Love,” it brought to mind Herman Wouk’s first novel, “Aurora Dawn,” which was a satire of the advertising business, relating specifically to a soap product, which became the name of the book. So what inspired you to use “soap” as the launching idea for this comedy?
LOGAN: Wouk’s early writings have always appealed to me and “Aurora Dawn” as well as “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “The Thrill of it All,” and anything by Ben Hecht fits well with the life perspective and writing style I used in building “Selling Love.” I did not intend to write a show about selling soap. I set out to write a story about people working in an unusual office situation and how they found love despite their chaotic surroundings. The office element was the feature that first interested me because I have experienced a number of interesting “day job” office situations. I think that the product they sell is itself a product of the devotion and care I wanted us to see in their boss. I desired audiences to understand that Mac is filled with passion for EVERYTHING. Soap was about the most everyday item I could come up with to exhibit that about him. When I began writing about Mac, Laurie, and Roberts, soap just sort of … well… bubbled to the surface as the characters took me on this ride. I suppose that they could have sold Tupperware or insurance, but soap just seems somehow funnier, doesn’t it?
VCOS: Tell me a little about the show’s main characters.
LOGAN: The characters in this play are each amalgams of people I have known. Mac approaches everything he does with passion and enduring care, and the mistakes he makes are a product of his love and dedication gone slightly awry. Roberts and Laurie are about two parts who I am and one part who I want to be. Ultimately, Roberts and Laurie end up the way I think we would all hope to. They each develop the courage to give in to love and be unafraid to try and better their lives. The other characters are composites of various workplace people I have met, loved, and at times, loathed, but always found interesting. But it was Mac, Roberts, and Laurie who first made me want to tell their story.
VCOS: Were you looking for certain types when you cast for this show or was there some latitude as to how the actors are playing the roles?
LOGAN: I was not involved in casting this show, that was left to Allison, Drew, Tom and the tremendous and talented people at the Elite Theatre Company in Oxnard. However, I have learned that there are many different ways to effectively play any character. Once I have created a specific character on the page and finished their story, I am happy to let them go and watch them live their lives as they see fit on any stage that chooses to bring them to life. They live forever in my mind the way I first met them in my head, but they are welcome to grow and change with each actor who embodies them. I don’t think you can be too rigid with what you write, because it is the involvement of others that gives our words life as playwrights.
VCOS: I know it’s a little premature at this point, but have you given thought to turning this into a musical?
LOGAN: I have written in the musical genre before. I could see this work as an effective musical, but the story first evolved for me as a stage play. I feel that it could work as a film as well if that was a door that was opened. However, at least in part, I wanted Selling Love to fill a void that I felt existed in modern play writing. I love a madcap comedy romp with characters you like and feel for, and that seems rare in today’s theatrical world. Those characters are prevalent in television with the likes of The Office and 30 Rock. I feel that stage audiences deserve smart, fun, and offbeat characters that you can invest in and laugh at as well. That was what I tired to accomplish with Selling Love.
VCOS: What universal themes does the show address and how does one make these things funny? Is it through exaggeration? The characters themselves? Jokes? Or all of the above?
LOGAN: I was always taught that any great comedy is only one small event away from being a tragedy, and vice versa. I hope that this is the case with Selling Love. It is a story of bettering one’s life and moving forward. The key themes center on passion, love, and self-discovery, set in our fast-moving modern world. I hope that the jokes are funny, but the comedy, romance and universal ability to relate comes from being able to laugh at ourselves through what we see in these characters. In them we see ourselves at our best, worst, and most frantic, and we understand and can laugh at their plight, while rooting for them to succeed
VCOS: Is the show suitable for all ages?
LOGAN: I believe it is, for the most part. I wrote it for everyone. I think there is one mild curse word. I wanted to write a romantic comedy that showed likable people trying to do good things. What results, I think, is funny to all audiences. Selling Love is a portrait of your office on the most absurd work day in history. I hope that it is suitable for everyone to enjoy.
“Selling Love” plays at the Elite Theatre beginning August 23rd. For dates and show times, see the VC On Stage Calendar of Events.