2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Nephrectomy’ by Elizabeth Hagerty

The life of a twenty-something: young enough to make mistakes, but old enough you should’ve know better. Utter confusion at the label ‘adult’. This frustration lead to both the creation, and plot, of Nephrectomy, a dark comedy premiering at the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival.

L to R: Lauren Padgett, Josh Heard, and Michelle Norris. Photo by Tim Simon.
L to R: Lauren Padgett, Josh Heard, and Michelle Norris. Photo by Tim Simon.

Nephrectomy is the story of three young adults working dead end jobs in a mall. Honor, Mattie, and Luke all wish their lives didn’t suck, but lack the motivation to go after their dreams. However, when one of them tells a lie suddenly ambition gets out of hand, mistakes are made, and payback is a bitch.

Staunch Theatre Company, the team behind Nephrectomy‘s premier, is also a small group of twenty-somethings. However, unlike the characters in the play, the members of Staunch Theatre Company are driven by ambition. Staunch, which means to remain steadfast in loyalty or principle, represents a group of emerging theatre artists determined to create their own opportunities.

The first draft of Nephrectomy was written by its playwright and director, Elizabeth Hagerty, in 2010. At the time she was a senior at Emerson College, majoring in theatre. “Of the plays I’ve written,” she said, “my favorites have concepts I originally decided were too ridiculous to make into a play. This show throws together kidneys with my summers working in retail. It took me two weeks to decide it wasn’t too weird to try the concept. When I sat down and wrote, the theme of post-grad fear slipped right in. It was a very serious first draft by a stressed out senior.”

Three years later, the play is very much a comedy. With time to look back and edit, the original ridiculous elements and the gift of hindsight have allowed Nephrectomy to change and grow. Actor Josh Heard plays Luke, an egotistical assistant manager obsessed with Star Wars. “This show has wildly ridiculous scenarios that somehow perfectly capture what it is to be a self-assured (or deprecating) 20 something in today’s society,” he said. “I really think audiences will laugh hysterically as they think to themselves, ‘I know these people’ or ‘I can’t believe I used to think like that.'” The play, though grounded in very real feelings, portrays the bizarre extremes we’ll go to when times get tough.

“I love comedies all about desperate characters who will do anything to achieve their ends,” said actress Lauren Padgett. She plays Mattie, who Lauren happily refered to as “a lovable narcissist who lives to scheme and gossip, but she’s not particularly good at it.” There’s great fun, and reflection, to be had in a story of characters with such obvious flaws. It’s a play of characters you’ll love to hate, and probably remind you of certain people you know.

Performing in the festival for the first time, the members of Staunch Theatre Company have an extremely do it yourself (DIY) attitude about staging the show. “Getting to collaborate with a group of people around my age has been really fun,” said Caeley Colgan, lead for the play’s tech and design. “We sort of fell together as a team out of a desire to stay creative after college. Though we’ve had some hurdles to jump with staging a play as a small group, we’re lucky to have a very resourceful team. Our production is really hands on.”

To be newly labelled an ‘adult’ is a strange stage of life. The characters in Nephrectomy attempt to avoid responsibility and change, but they eventually collide with serious problems, unprepared in the worst ways. Handing out homemade business cards and brainstorming wherever they can, the members of Staunch Theatre Company are facing the challenges and fun of their twenties, and of Capital Fringe Festival, face first. Nephrectomy is sure to make you laugh and cringe – at the characters and their choices, and perhaps because you can relate.


Nephrectomy V2

At Gearbox – 1021 7th Street NW, 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20001

Thursday, July 11 at 10:00 pm
Saturday, July 13 at 7:00 pm
Saturday, July 20 at 4:30 pm
Wednesday, July 24 at 8:15 pm
Saturday, July 27 at 3:45pm
About Capital Fringe:
Capital Fringe is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2005 with the purpose of connecting exploratory artists with adventurous audiences by creating outlets and spaces for creative, cutting-edge, and contemporary performance in the District. Capital Fringe’s vital programs ensure the growth and continued health of the local and regional performing arts community by helping artists become independent producers while stimulating the vibrant cultural landscape in our city.


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