I have to admit, I was incredibly nervous to see my show Thursday night at the 4th St. Theatre at the New York Theatre Workshop. I think it’s to do with the fact that it was a completely new experience for me and my little playwright brain couldn’t grasp the reality of it all- aside from the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway festival I had participated in 4 years ago, this was my first production in NY… and it was completely different and amazing for a whole-exciting-bunch of all new reasons.
But when I walked into the theatre, I was greeted by a voiceless director who was exhausted from the last minute tech-insanity, but who also seemed really happy with the work… so I settled in, took a breath, and let go.
And it was wonderful!
The play began with an entirely different interpretation of the first scene than I’d imagined (there was dancing and shadow play!) and it completely surprised me – but in a really great way. You see, I’d written this play to be interpreted and designed – The text is the text is the text, but the staging and design of the play are not strongly indicated, so a director/design team can (and should) have fun manifesting the metaphorical nature of the events of the play… which of course runs the risk of someone getting a little too auteurish with the script, which in turn might make me cringe someday, but the fact is that I like writing for designers and directors and actors. I like giving them a jumping off point – dialogue, plot, a lot of visual challenges, and room to stretch their creative wings.
And I really loved the design that CAKE Productions and their director, Paul Urcioli, created.
The set was all white, the back wall moved as we dove deeper and deeper into Jane’s nightmare, the many doors provided funny and poignant entrances and exits, and the lighting was really cool.
And the actors were amazing.
Having seen the show twice before in LA, I was prepared for the embraced wackiness of the play, but the actors and direction in this production actually grounded the play more than I’d seen before and it brought a wonderfully genuine gravity to the play. The play leans to the absurd, but Jane’s crisis is a very real problem… the humor and pathos was really well-balanced in this production, and it drove the plays meaning all the way home – at least I thought so.
And I enjoyed the surprises – having worked on the play for so long, I’m very familiar with the text, but hearing it aloud again after the 4 years since the last production was a treat because I had done some rewrites. There were a few places I had honestly forgotten that I’d rewritten, so I found myself leaning in a bit more and being surprised by my own work. Then there were a few places where the director’s choices changed the way a scene or moment played and I thought “Wow – that was totally not how I’d imagined it/seen it done before!” but in a really interesting and purposeful way that served the play well.
I walked out of the theatre feeling like a proud and honored playwright, like I’d just been to the interior of my play – past my own expectations and further into the world of Jane Doe.
And I can’t wait to see it again tonight.