Playing for laughs

Mike Forney is getting ready to take his show on the road.

The Youngstown playwright will debut his next play, “Someone Stole Cuzzin’ Eddie’s Scratch Off Ticket,” on Saturday at Packard Music Hall, and plans are under way to expand beyond the Mahoning Valley with his next show.

”Cuzzin’ Eddie” is a comedy about a homeless man who claims he won $10 million on a scratch-off lottery ticket, but someone stole the ticket from him.

“I have a thing for homeless people,” Forney said. “There’s something about them that’s unique. They always have interesting stories. But you look at the stories, look at them and think, ‘Can you believe them?'”

Forney described the seven-character comedy as animated and real, finding humor in situations that people might not find funny elsewhere.

“When you’re writing a comedy, you have to be very careful,” he said. “You can’t force people to laugh … I’m presenting this as real as possible, things that they wouldn’t laugh at in real life, but now that it’s in a play they got a chance to do it.

“If I see someone picking a piece of chicken out of the garbage and talking about how good it tastes, if you do it on stage I’m gonna laugh. If you do it real life, I’m gonna feel sorry for you.”

Forney staged his first two plays, “He Loves Me, She Loves Me Not” and “I Was Fine Before I Met You,” at Powers Auditorium. ”Cuzzin’ Eddie” is his first show at Packard, and Forney said he loves the space and the cooperation he’s received from both manager Christopher Stephenson and Warren mayor Doug Franklin.

“This is my third one written, produced, directed and financed – someone can take that last one off me if they want,” Forney said.

After debuting his first three shows in the Mahoning Valley, Forney is expanding his reach. His next play, “Men Do What Women Allow,” is based on a novel by Cleveland radio personality Sam Sylk and will premiere in Cleveland in May 2014 with name actors in the cast. The show then will do a five-city tour including Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and a Warren-Youngstown location.

It puts him one step closer to his goal of making movies.

As a black writer-director who hopes to parlay stage shows into a film career, comparisons to Tyler Perry are inevitable, and Forney doesn’t mind it.

“I get that all the time. It’s OK. It’s a great comparison. He’s definitely successful, but my plays and the things I do are unique. I have a different style than Tyler, but he’s definitely my inspiration.”