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'Life imitates art' in show by local playwright set to debut after pandemic delay

The American Stage production "The People Downstairs" is a dark comedy about "loss and loneliness and how laughter and human connection heal us."

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Oscar Wilde might’ve been on to something.

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” he famously wrote in his 1889 essay "The Decay of Lying."

After an 18 month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Petersburg playwright Natalie Symons' highly anticipated show "The People Downstairs" debuts Sept. 17 with a plot she says is more resonant now than when she first wrote it.

“It’s about loss and loneliness and how laughter and human connection heal us,” Symons said. “So the themes are all very strangely what we’ve all gone through.”

The American Stage production, which runs through Oct. 3, is a dark comedic story of an agoraphobic middle-aged woman living with her unconventional, alcoholic funeral home custodian father.

Initially slated to debut in March of 2020, Symons says the show has taken on new meaning and relevance because of the pandemic.

People are going to ask if it was written during COVID, she said smiling, but it was not.

“I think for people to be able to come back into the theatre and experience a story together about loneliness and laughter and love and kindness and all of these themes that seemed to me almost juvenile before this pandemic and now I feel like they’re the most important things in the world,” she said.

Symons, who is also an actress, just penned her first novel "Lies in Bone."

You can buy tickets for "The People Downstairs" on the American Stage production website. The show will be at the Raymond James Theatre. 

Audience capacity is limited due to COVID protocols. There will also be temperature checks at the door and masks will be required.