Thursday, December 4, 2008


(Melissa Roth, Richard Harrington, Fred Backus)

Tonight is the preview performance of The Granduncle Quadrilogy, our last chance to tinker and play before the official opening tomorrow. At last night's dress rehearsal, Ken Stein/Runs With Scissors Photography came by to take some production photos, and the first of them are housed in a set at The Brick's Flickr page. Here's a glimpse; more will follow. Let me say that, as a gratified writer, I am so unbearably excited that my bones are likely to shatter.

(Gavin Starr Kendall, Richard Harrington)

(Richard Harrington and Friend)


Ludlow Lad said...


ish-lilith said...

Hey Jeff,

There are so many laughs in your past plays and so much social slapstick in this one that it took me a while to realize I was watching perhaps your first full tragedy.

For all the chill that surrounds these characters, the only things that end up getting preserved are the cruelly misinterpreted morals of Kissel’s creed and the grueling meander of Granduncle’s long life. His tribesmen and women have no reference-point for anyone who managed (or wanted) to last, and the play makes a punishing case that we are in general unprepared for survival and ill-equipped for existence.

Granduncle doesn’t know quite what to do with Kroff’s life in the sacrifice scene, and doesn’t really ever know what to do with his own. Of course he’s the only one in the play who seems to think things over, at least among those who are in any position to act, and it both isolates him from those socially above him and keeps him from being any help to those below. He’s born into a culture with no context for doing the right thing, and the thought that civilization is a condition for virtue to exist rather than virtue being an innate human trait from which civilization is built is one of the play’s many desolate lessons. (Funny, as in curious, that Granduncle comes to reflect on Kissel’s dominion as a kind of twisted sense of humor, when not a week ago I was emailing to Edward Einhorn about g-d’s cruel punchlines in connection with Edward’s latest golem play.)

Yes, Macbeth Without Words was a tragedy by definition and Folly Ball and even Babylon were bound for unhappy endings, but they all promise revelations at the far side of their traumas; the only epiphanies waiting for Kissel’s people are disappointments. Sigh, as Granduncle in summation would say, but huzzah, too -- you’ve written your Ambersons. And as I told Hope, this was the ballet of histrionics she was born to direct -- I can’t remember a play-of-ideas with more physicality and intuition, and it’s hard to think of any team that could’ve pulled it off better. I dubbed Ivanna “Shtickspeare,” though that goes for all the women -- oracular overreaction and otherworldliness from each; elsewhere in the cast, it was Maximum Backus, with full bloom to that football-captain-at-Guantanamo persona that has seemed so near the surface in several of his other roles; the Granduncle dude did a masterly job of diffidence without blankness (lots of diffuse torment in those waters underneath), and his “enemy” was played with a poignantly-pitched fatalism (so no wonder he had a vaguely Russian accent).

Always a joy to see the work and y’all; hope also to see you with unwanted gifts in hand on the occasion of some obscure Eastern holy day (or Northern as the case may be…).