Wayland theatre presents "The Water Engine" and "Mr. Happiness"

February 21, 2013

PLAINVIEW – The Wayland Baptist University theatre department will present an American fable on Feb. 28 – March 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box theatre in Harral Auditorium.
David Mamet’s The Water Engine is a story of corporate greed and its effect on a regular guy who develops plans for an engine that runs on water in Chicago during the 1934 World’s Fair.

Originally written as a radio drama, Director of Theatre Dr. Marti Runnels says the play offers a unique perspective into what is real and what isn’t, and leaves the viewers with a sense of how things might be different in a world devoid of greed and corruption.
The Water Engine is a very dark story of corporate corruption where it is hard to see anything decent that could happen to a decent person. A decent human being is going to get swallowed up by corporate greed,” Runnels said. “If oil companies back in the 30s found out that anyone was getting ready to develop an engine that ran on water when their entire business and economy is based on things that run on oil and gas … it wouldn’t be pretty.”

Runnels said the key to Wayland’s presentation will be in the companion piece that was originally penned by Mamet to accompany The Water Engine. Entitled Mr. Happiness, the companion piece is a similar morality tale from the opposite end of the spectrum. Mr. Happiness is a man who makes a living as a self-help radio talk show host of sorts. Runnels said while many radio hosts such as Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh use sensationalism and try to build audience with their shocking and outlandish ideas and speech, Mr. Happiness is someone who genuinely wants to help people with no ulterior motives.

“When you listen to Mr. Happiness, you walk away with this feeling of how wonderful the world would be if everyone was compassionate and caring,” Runnels said.
What Runnels has done with the production is build on Mamet’s idea of a fable by incorporating both pieces into the show. Mamet originally wrote the companion piece to follow The Water Engine. Runnels has combined the shows, however, leading off with Mr. Happiness in such a way that you feel he is controlling the production of The Water Engine which may or may not be a radio production.

Runnels said he was struggling with whether or not to use Mr. Happiness at all when Dr. Steve Wood, theatre technical director at Wayland suggested combining the scripts.
“I started to think about how that might alter both pieces, and I really liked the idea,” Runnels said.

The cast will feature a young set of players who are relatively new to the Wayland stage. Many are in their first year in the Wayland theatre department. The role of Lang, the inventor of the water engine, will be played by Austin Blakely. Lang’s sister, Rita, will be played by Katelyn Wilson. The remaining cast members will fill numerous roles as the production drifts between a radio broadcast and a dramatic theatre presentation. The remaining cast members are Coleman Scroggins, Austin Blakely, Katelyn Wilson, Zachary Fisher, Ryan Hernandez, Isaac Perez, Cameron Connor, Joanna Shutts, Lillie Cooper and Jordan Sisson. The role of Bernie will be played by 10-year-old Mathew Silva.
 Runnels said they will also take the production to the Christian University Theatre Festival being hosted by Howard Payne University.

Ticket prices are $8 and are available online at www.wbu.edu, or by calling the theatre office at 806-291-1060. All showings are at 7:30 p.m. in Wayland’s Black Box theatre.