WE WOULD'VE lost Wayne S. Rawley to rock 'n' roll, if he'd just had the aptitude.
"I didn't want to be a playwright," he swears. "I became a playwright because I wanted to be Gene Simmons, but I don't play bass."
Well, KISS is somewhere in it all, anyway.
Rawley is a big, polite, instantly endearing guy, a Cornish acting grad from Marysville who comes off like someone to have a beer with and talk about how much you hate to love Journey. He's crafted his own not-so-guilty pop sensation at Theater Schmeater with his loving, dead-on bad TV-series parody Money & Run. The ongoing late-night comic saga of two fugitive lovers, named Money and Run, in a uproariously clich餠South is overflowing with ecstatic pop cultural references, including choreographed montages and slo-mo fight scenes all set to the appropriate Top-40 rock anthems.
"It's perfect because it's so cool, but it's also so ridiculous," Rawley says, grinning. "I mean, [Bon Jovi] singing 'I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride'—it's so dumb, but at the same time it's so very, very cool, which is kind of what I want Money & Run to be."
It's proof of Rawley's talent as a writer, and of his own amiable genuineness, that he balances the hipness and the inanity with such careful invention; somehow the bug-eyed pleasures never go too far. The show is not such a joke that you can't care about what's happening. In Episode 2: Of Nuns and Ninjas, which closes this weekend, Money brings Run into a battle to save her childhood orphanage, which is about to be run over by the town's nefarious liquor store baroness and some hired assassins. Audience members actually "awwwwww" at the pseudo-heartwarming conclusion.
Rawley cuts to the chase in explanation. "The Dukes of Hazzard—I know The Dukes of Hazzard is dumb, but I love it. And I think that's the [same] reason that people respond to this."
Schmeater is responding by producing "reruns" of the show (which began back in '99), with a new cast, through spring. A replay of Episode 3 is forthcoming. In the meantime, Rawley is pushing himself.
"I don't want to be pigeonholed as the Money & Run guy," he says. "The reason I wanted to do this FringeACT thing was because it would give me the impetus to finish this play."
The "FringeACT thing" is next weekend's promising three-day festival of new works at ACT, and the play Rawley's discussing is God Damn Tom, his contribution about a group of Northwest folks trying to hack out what to do with the worrisome title character. While there are a few laughs in it, Rawley says he's not going for yuks.
"I want God Damn Tom to be more of a naturalistic play," he explains. "There's a whole section of people that are lower income, that work really hard just to pay the rent. And that's kind of where I came from, that's my upbringing. So I want to write about those people."
Though he hopes the play will be the jumping-off point for new things, he still gets a little spark when speaking of the endless possibilities of his late-night hit.
"I wanna go into space. I wanna take them to space. I can't wait until we do a whole season in space," he says with his usual smiling seriousness, indicating that, no, he's not joking but, yes, he knows exactly how funny it is. "You know, with the same costumes, just shiny orange."
In the meantime, like most struggling young artists, Rawley is busy balancing his dream with his day job.
"A lot of times I think about my job at KCTS [he produces the network's interstitials] and I think, you know, 'There's certainly no shame in doing this—people do this as a career.' But I always come back to 'You want to be a playwright.'"