Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Seal the Envelope

"Seal the envelope" is the phrase I like to use around the office when making grand predictions. Also "You heard it here," and "Mark my words." I am not very original in this regard.

I want to predict to you that a play currently titled Broke-ology will become terribly important over the next 5 years, to where you will hear about it everywhere, even if your circles do not intersect with the theatre world, and especially if they do.

This past weekend, I attended the world premiere of
Broke-ology at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the stock you are thinking of when you say "summer stock." On the campus of Williams College --reason enough for driving all the way to New York, then taking one step back into Massachusetts -- throughout the summer, you can see 7 plays, 2 per weekend, professionally produced and satisfyingly performed, for much less than you will pay in any big city, and in the case of Broke-ology, long before there are no more tickets available.

Nathan Louis Jackson's play was not on the original Williamstown schedule (I am sorry to tell you that the abbreviation is WTF) and the Julliard student had not even been considering such a booking, but he knew a good opportunity when he heard one.

Variety's review is here -- there are a few spoilers, but not many, and it is an even review.

Part of its power for me was its theme of decisions and regrets, which we have been discussing in this space. As a bonus, next to She Loves Me (another bit of brilliant theatre in a completely different vein, which also played last weekend) it was a perfect companion for discussing the nature of loneliness, companionship, desire, ambition, and all the other high notes of the human condition. (this clip is not from the Huntington or WTF. because that would be illegal)

My predictions are these:

1) Nicholas Martin, Artistic Director of BU's Huntington Theatre, who is also serving as WTF's Artistic Director, also knows a good thing when he sees it, and will immediately secure Broke-ology for the 2008-09 season. The Huntington may be too big for this production, but there is room for the set and the blocking to grow. At the Nikos Stage, it was just a single room in a black-box theatre. Such a detailed genuine set dressing you haven't seen since the Castorini house in Moonstruck. I thought I'd seen the limit when there was actually a light in the refrigerator, until both the faucet and the stove in the kitchen set worked.

2) Broke-ology will generate all kinds of buzz during its Boston run. People will compare Nathan Jackson to August Wilson, which is not entirely fair -- they will mostly do so because they are both Black. And it is a flattering comparison --Wilson was a brilliant playwright whose plays screamed Message! from behind their period-dressed characters. We should wish to be compared to August Wilson.

Broke-ology is more Eugene O'Neill. A little Tennessee Williams without the hysteria. I think it will get refined during its Boston run -- some of the obvious dialogue weeded out, some of the claustrophobia lightened up. After all, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof takes place in one miserable bedroom, but you hardly notice when it's blocked well.

3) Boston being one of the stops one the way to the Big Show, the play will next move off-Broadway, but not far off, because by now it is too big to go back in the Box and the lighting design will need more space. Next stop Broadway, and... if the conditions are right, this play could win the Tony.

I don't think it will win The Pulitzer, only because it is not very daring. It is just a story about you and your family, and every family you know, and the rotten corners we get painted into. And in that way, this is nothing new. It is a prodigal son/King Lear story, and they don't get much older than that. Or more true.

4) Film version

So seal this in an envelope. By 2013, you'll be cheering for Forrest Whitaker as "Pops" William King on Oscar night.


  1. WTF is also the abbreviation for the Resume Transmittal Form, or so I've been told.


  2. Peter DuBois recently became the Artistic Director at the Huntington. Nicholas Martin will remain with the Huntington for a few years as Artist Emeritus. Broke-ology was performed at the Huntington this past spring as part of their Breaking Ground Festival - a festival devoted to developing new American plays.

  3. I was just telling Dr. A last night that you are very funny. Now I will have to add theater critic to my mental image of you. And you are totally freaking me out on FB. See you at the housewarming.


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