For the next few posts, I’ll be logging in from New York City, where I’m on a multi-tasking trip that includes a trio (at least) of Broadway shows to review. I also will be reporting from BookExpo America, the publishers/booksellers trade show.
Day 1: The 12+ hour trek from Indy to New York can be a grueling one when you are driving. So I come prepared with a stack of new plays-on-tape by L.A. Theatre Works, a company I’ve raved about here before.
LATW produces plays on CD and has created a beyond-remarkable library of classics, new plays, and dramatized books. This time out, I got through Ohio engrossed (but still focused on the road) in two newer plays, Stephen Karam’s “Speech & Debate” and Lydia Diamond’s “Stick Fly.” The former is an unpolished but effective dramatic comedy about three misfit teens and a school sex scandal. While the pace of technological, combined with the play’s podcasting and chat room plot points may soon render it a period piece, there universal interest in the need for us to find connections with others.
“Stick Fly” concerns an African-American upper class family high up on the Martha’s Vineyard ladder. Of course, there are skeletons in every closet that emerge when two of the sons show up at home with very different girlfriends–and their mother doesn’t show up at all. It’s overstuffed (do we need another play in which a character is writing a novel?) and doesn’t quite pull together, but “Stick Fly” is packed with distinct, interesting characters and lively dialogue in a world that we don’t often–if ever–see (or hear) on stage.
Finally, there was LATW’s recording of Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia.” I missed the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production a few year’s back, but I couldn’t help think about how this play’s treatment of history differed from that of the IRT’s current production, “Interpreting William.” In the Stoppard play, contemporary historians try to piece together the past based on shards of “evidence.” That journey–and scenes of what really happened–embraces topics ranging from gardening to physics, putting it all together in a heady but accessible mix that makes me want to listen again on the ride back. (My review of “Interpreting William” will appear in the upcoming print IBJ.)
I probably won’t get to hear it again on this trip, though, because I learned that our own Central Library has even more LATW recordings than I thought, available to “borrow” for downloading-and-burning. I’m doing just that.
Stay tuned for more on my NYC trek…