By Barbara Trainin Blank
Many of us hold onto vestiges of childhood even after adulthood.
In local playwright Patrick Flynn’s “Sheila and Moby” – making its world premiere as the last production of Flying V Theatre’s 2018 season – a successful woman returns home to a changing parent-child relationship and an old stuffed animal.
“The play is a riff on ‘Calvin and Hobbes, with a gender transfer,’ said Flynn. “It’s as if Calvin comes home at the age of 30 and takes an animal out of the trunk.”
Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” is a universally popular cartoon, following the adventures of six-year-old Calvin and his trusty tiger, Hobbes.
Once home Sheila, together with her stuffed animal companion Moby, an Iberian lynx, helps a little girl across the street track down a missing stuffed koala she believes was kidnapped.
“I’m very interested in what it means to be an adult,” Flynn said. “It’s complicated… Young adults work hard and study, relationships form and disappear, they achieve results though the ‘system,’ but don’t find it fulfilling. Sheila just got a promotion, but that didn’t make her happy.”
The play’s other characters are no happier: Sheila encounters a friend, whose marriage is falling apart. Sheila’s father is recently retired, and having trouble adjusting. It isn’t, said the 38-year-old Flynn, a “children’s play.”
The playwright emerged on the D.C. playwriting scene in the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival with his “Giant Box of Porn.” When a recently-married couple discover their apartment has been broken into and a box of pornographic VHS tapes left behind, fault lines in the relationship come out.
Courtney Self, who has been staging plays in New York City for five years, is making her D.C.-area directorial debut with “Sheila and Moby.”
She and Flynn previously worked together with his play “The Ferberizing of Coral,” about two parents trying to sleep-train their baby according to a strict regimen since debunked.
“It’s a lot of fun, and very honest,” said Flynn.
First performed in the DC Source Festival in 2016 and later winning a coveted spot in the Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Festival, it is one of six plays the publisher has selected for publication and syndication in its annual “Best 10-Minute Plays” volume.
Flynn has been collaborating with Flying V on “Sheila and Moby” for the past two years, and speak well of their “wonderful working relationship.”
Self met Jason Schlafstein, artistic director of Flying V, at a Directors Lab last summer and found they had “similar sensibilities.” That led to an introduction to Flynn.
With a Masters in directing from the Hart School in Connecticut, Self just finished a two-year residency with the Music Theatre Development Lab.
She said of “Sheila and Moby: “I don’t always feel a close connection with characters in a play, but there are so many rich and complex characters in it. The play strikes home in a lot of different ways. “
Sheila, added Self, is “an outside-the-box thinker and rebel – but not for the sake of it. The little girl, Courtney, is curious, smart, a little rambunctious, and not polite. You can ask my parents if I wasn’t her as a six-year-old.”
Flynn, Self said, is a brilliant writer, with a wry and witty tone. “It’s also a breath of fresh air for someone to create characters for women.”
The play’s cast of eight includes Madeline Key as Sheila, Robyn Rikoon as Moby, and Cassie Cope as Courtney.
Previews for “Sheila and Moby” begin Oct. 25 at the Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda. The show runs Oct. 27-Nov. 18. Tickets can be purchased online at: flyingv.brownpapertickets.com or at the door. For more information, visit: www.flyingtheatre.com.