Story last updated at 1:53 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2002

Humorist bringing comedic play to Mariner
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: entertainment
  Photo by Rick Singer
Actor Tim Behrens explores his fears as Young Pat in "McManus in Love."  
Writing a humorous story loses some of its allure if, despite the story's success, the author never gets to hear the laughter.

For best-selling humor writer Patrick McManus, his desire to hear those chuckles and chortles inspired him to write his first stage play a decade ago. Ten years and five plays later, McManus has hit on something to fuel his creative fire, much to the glee of audiences across the nation.

"This is kind of exciting, because when you write something and it goes out, you may never hear anything about it," said McManus in a prepared statement. "They may be laughing themselves silly, and you never know about it. That's a whole lot different than seeing people react instantly."

McManus might have picked up other indications that people were enjoying his written word. Five of his 12 books have made The New York Times best-seller list, including "The Grasshopper Trap," "The Night The Bear Ate Goombaw," and most recently, "The Good Samaritan Strikes again."

With a comedic style that has been called a cross between Mark Twain and Bill Cosby, McManus has brought people to tears (of joy, of course) with his books, and now, his plays.

"McManus in Love," has visited town before, and returns at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mariner Theatre.

In the comedy, McManus takes a daring look back at that most awkward time in life, puberty. A young Pat and his pal Crazy Eddie, enter the world of girls, dating and romance, with disastrous consequences.

Pat and his friend's mind-warping antics to attract the attentions of the opposite sex, or, more specifically, Melba Peachbottom, the prettiest girl in school, often end in disaster of epic proportions.

Included in the documentary on self-discovery are personal grooming tips from the old woodsman, Rancid Crabtree, who takes a bath every leap year, and Eddie's father, who is equally helpful.

All of the more than a dozen characters in the play, which include a bear, and, for a brief moment, a bicycle, are played by Tim Behrens, a Washington-based actor who has performed McManus' plays since 1992.

Behrens hails from an acting family, and as a result, avoided acting like the plague until age 32, when he auditioned for a local stage play and got the lead.

Since then, Behrens has immersed himself in the acting world, and is now the managing and artistic director of Centre Theatre Group in Spokane. Since beginning his work with McManus, he has performed 600 times for more than 200,000 people in 23 states.

Together, McManus and Behrens make a potent team, according to reviewers nationwide.

"The ensuing pandemonium is evoked with such vivid lushness that ... (the) audience, already moved to tears of laughter, were reduced to banging their heads on their knees in ... paralyzed delight," said a Seattle Times reviewer. "Behrens is a wonder at bringing to life the inhabitants of McManus' fictional childhood ... the anecdotes were hilarious."

Another reviewer said simply, "I laughed until my chest ached and my face hurt. Then I laughed harder."

Tickets for the comedy play are $17 general admission, $15 for Homer Council on the Arts members, and $12 for youth 18 and under. They can be purchased at the Homer Bookstore, Etude Studios and the council building. Though a family show, it is not recommended for children under nine. For more information or to reserve tickets, call 235-4288.

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