What if we make a mumblecore play about D.B. Cooper?
This is the kind of question that an artist can pose in Chico while having a legitimate expectation that the idea could be realized as a public production. Something about the intimate nature of the local arts scene plus the accessibility of small-town resources makes this a place where no idea is too weird to at least get a chance at being realized.
Perhaps more than any other local presenter in the past few decades, the Blue Room Theatre has offered its stage for many of these wild ideas. It comes as no surprise then that there is indeed a mumblecore play about the notorious hijacker D.B. Cooper opening there. A couple of young Chico playwrights, Sam Lucas and Cohen Morano, are the artists who posed the what-if that turned into a script—D.B. Cooper: The Incredible True Story—that is now in production for an April 21 opening.
During a recent pre-rehearsal interview, Morano, who is also directing, expressed appreciation for being able to work with a theater that has been committed to presenting locally written works alongside its program of contemporary plays: “I feel like it’s the theater that lets you experiment,” they said.
The experiment in this case is a bare-bones presentation, a talk-heavy two-act comedy about not being able to solve a mystery.
“D.B. Cooper is one of those random things you find out about and you start obsessing over,” Morano said, explaining that the enduring mystery of the Northwest Orient Airlines hijacker who parachuted from the Boeing 727 in 1971 and was never seen again. “In the Internet age, the idea of getting away with something and being completely anonymous and no one ever finding out seems like such a weird unique [thing]. How many mysteries really can’t be solved at this point in time? I think that’s kind of why I’ve been fascinated with him for so long.”
The set up features two FBI agents (played by Ben Kaiser and Morano) interviewing those who were on the plane in an attempt to recreate the crime, complete with an actor in the part of the hijacker (two actors, actually—played by Samuel Vizcarra and Nico Martin).
The story for this production lies in the low-key comedy of errors that ensues when a disparate group of witnesses shares their sometimes divergent recollections during the attempts at reinactment. It’s safe to say that the case is unlikely to be cracked.
“I feel like telling a story about D.B. Cooper and trying to resolve it kind of doesn’t capture what makes D.B. Cooper interesting. It’s not why we cared about him,” Morano said. “It’s because he’s a guy who hijacked a plane, he hurt no one, he got a bunch of money, disappeared, never spent the money, never showed up. There’s like 30 people who on their deathbed are just like, ‘I’m D.B. Cooper.’”
Morano and Lucas (who is now studying theater in Ashland) are longtime friends who have collaborated at the Blue Room many times before—including producing last summer’s The Twilight Zone episodes, the first shows to be presented at the theater’s current space near Chico State (1105 W. First St.). The COVID pandemic forced the Blue Room to abandon its long-time downtown home above Collier Hardware (which is now occupied by California Regional Theatre).
After an extended homeless spell, the theater is attempting a comeback in smaller, and much humbler, environs. In addition to the D.B. Cooper show and an all-alien edition of The Twilight Zone (opening May 26), the Blue Room has started hosting live music (currently booking through the summer). The theater is also bringing back its Teen Program, which Morano came up through at the old space and will now be directing for their second summer in a row.
To find out more about upcoming plays, classes and live music schedule, visit the Blue Room on Facebook (facebook.com/blueroomtheatre).
D.B. Cooper: The Incredible True Story shows Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. (doors 7:30 p.m.), April 21-May 6. Tickets $15 (eventbrite.com)
Blue Room Theatre
1105 W. First St.