Thursday, October 25, 2018

"Playlabs" at The Playwrights' Center

It's late October, and you know what that means - it's time for The Playwrights' Center's annual Playlabs Festival! Playlabs is a sort of concentrated version of what PWC does year-round, which is support playwrights in developing new works of theater. During this one week, three plays and playwrights receive workshop and rehearsal time, a director, a cast, and sometimes a designer or two. Each play has two readings that are free and open to the public; an important part of the new play development process is seeing how it reads in front of an audience. And that's where you come in, #TCTheater friends. We're at the halfway point, each play has had one reading, the team is back in the lab continuing to tweak things, and the final readings occur this Friday and Saturday (along with a Fellows Showcase on Sunday). You can still register for all three readings here, or show up and get on the waitlist. It's such a thrill to be a part of the process, and a privilege to be able to experience some amazing plays in the early stages, as brought to life by a top notch #TCTheater cast. Read on for descriptions of all three plays, and a few thoughts on the one(s) I've seen so far.

The Berlin Diaries 
by Core Writer Andrea Stolowitz
Monday, October 22 at 7 p.m.
Friday, October 26 at 7 p.m.

Director: Larissa Lury
Cast: Bob Davis*, Miriam Schwartz
*Member of Actors' Equity Association

In 2006, playwright Andrea Stolowitz receives a copy of her great-grandfather’s 1939 diary from the archivist at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). It sits on her shelf. In 2015, Andrea Stolowitz receives a DAAD fellowship to spend a year in Berlin using the diary as the basis for a new play. The parallel lives of Max Cohnreich and Andrea Stolowitz create a nested detective narrative about the search for home and family which operates at the border of reality and memory and the intersection of national history and private lives. A play about remembering and forgetting.

My thoughts: This is a fascinating, funny, and moving play. And very meta - it's a play about a playwright in her process of writing a play. We go with Andrea on her search for her forgotten family history, and her exploration of how the deaths of family members in the Holocaust has affected and continues to affect her family, even though no one knew about it. So many families lost entire branches of their family tree, with untold ramifications; Andrea shares one specific example. She's chosen to make this play a two-hander, with two actors playing many characters, including herself, and they often play the same character, even in the same scene, or the same sentence. It feels like a conversation within one person, between generations, between the past and the present.

Legacy Land
by Core Writer Stacey Rose
Tuesday, October 23 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 27 at 1 p.m.

Director: Logan Vaughn
Dramaturg: Otis Ramsey-Zoe
Designer: Katharine Horowitz
Cast: Ivory Doublette*, Kory LaQuess Pullam, Thomasina Petrus*, James A. Williams*
*Member of Actors' Equity Association

Legacy Land is the story of two sisters grappling with a painful legacy of sex abuse, incest, and family dysfunction during a freak Thanksgiving weekend blizzard. Barbara, a 42-year-old recluse, has hunkered down for an intimate weekend between her and her barely legal lover, Marcus. When Barbara’s bubbly younger sister, Denise, and her loutish fiancĂ©, Freddie, arrive, all bets for a cozy weekend for two are off. As the blizzard renders them immobile, the group reconciles themselves to their situation. That is, until Freddie, in his bottomless arrogance, reveals the real reason for his and Denise’s visit.

by Playwrights’ Center Core Writer Ariel Stess
Wednesday, October 24 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 27 at 7 p.m.

Director: Hayley Finn
Cast: , Chloe Armao, Zoe Geltman, Peter Christian Hansen*, Terry Hempleman*, Tracey Maloney*, Luverne Seifert*, and Angela Timberman*
*Member of Actors' Equity Association

Kara’s husband is about to leave and run away with their 21-year-old babysitter, Emma. Emma’s mother, Barbara, is being hassled by her ex-boyfriend to get back together. And REI employee Miranda is trying to find a way to stop living paycheck to paycheck. Set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this comedy-drama is about breaking free from forces in your life that are holding you back—in order to start again.

My thoughts: I saw the Wednesday night reading of this play and I absolutely loved it. It's exactly the play we need right now - four very different women at different stages of their lives telling their own stories. Literally - most of the play is monologues by the women describing their lives, but in a wonderfully poetic, funny, and dynamic way. These women are at the center of their stories, and such complex and well-defined characters, all at a bit of a crossroads in their lives and making their own strong choices about how to move forward. I hope this play is produced soon, often, and everywhere!