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A man walks into a mysterious bar, conspiracy theories loom on Modesto stage

Jack Souza, Amber Fowler, Teddy Snyder and Nick Zagone star in “Yankee Tavern.”
Jack Souza, Amber Fowler, Teddy Snyder and Nick Zagone star in “Yankee Tavern.” Prospect Theater Project

A “mind-bending” take on the traditional a-man-walks-into-a-bar tale takes over the Prospect Theatre stage this weekend.

“Yankee Tavern” is billed as a thriller and a nail-biter that brings together the tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks, a conspiracy theorist and a wedding in the planning stages in “a tale that flips the trope of conspiracy theory on its head and shakes you to the core,” according to a press release from the Modesto theater company.

The play runs Sept. 14-30 at Prospect’s downtown Modesto theater.

Set in New York City, there are ghosts walking the condemned hotel above Yankee Tavern, but those spirits are friendly and not the basis for the thriller aspects of the story. “No, this is a chill that creeps so slowly into this well-crafted tale, you won’t notice its effects until you are left frozen, leaning far forward in your chair and mouth agape,” Prospect promises.

Jack Souza, Amber Fowler, Teddy Snyder and Nick Zagone star in “Yankee Tavern.” Eric Bjerke, Sr. Prospect Theater Project

The story follows Adam, a graduate student working at Yankee Tavern, a bar on the ground level of an old hotel, both slated for demolition. Adam is running the bar until he’s done with school or the bar is torn down, whichever comes first. His fiancée Janet is dealing wedding planning frustration, which is creating mutual stress for the pair.

Add to the mix, family friend Ray.

Ray is a longtime customer and a longtime conspiracy theorist who was also a close friend of Vince, Adam’s father and former bartender/owner of the Yankee Tavern. He’s so close to the family that he’ll stand in for Vince at Adam and Janet’s wedding. But his theories create further contention between the couple.

Nick Zagone plays a mysterious customer in “Yankee Tavern.” Eric Bjerke, Sr. Prospect Theater Project

Then, a man walks into the bar.

“What could be just a story about wedding jitters and an eccentric conspiracy theorist and the stressful hijinks that ensue takes a turn when a man comes into the bar and orders two Rolling Rocks – one for himself, and one for a friend who isn’t there,” according to the release. “After ordering, the man remains silent as the trio continue alternatively arguing and commiserating, but when he does speak, his words set something into motion.”

“Yankee Tavern” is directed by Michael Hewitt for Prospect Theater. Jack Souza plays Ray, with Teddy Snyder as Adam and Amber Rain Fowler as Janet. Nick Zagone plays the mysterious man.

“Yankee Tavern”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; Sept. 14-30

WHERE: Prospect Theater Project, 1214 K St., Modesto

TICKETS: $25 general, $10 students and active military