Monday, December 30, 2013

All You Need is Love

by Kimberly Colburn

TRUDY AND MAX: Michael Weston and Aya Cash
Zoe Kazan

In a sense, SCR’s history with Zoe Kazan began before she was born, when SCR awarded one of its earliest commissions to her mother, Robin Swicord. Read more about the Kazan family here. Many years later, Kazan began her own theatrical career. She has already turned heads as a both a writer and actress in theatre and film.

Zoe Kazan at the Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Trudy and Max in Love.
Kazan made her professional acting debut off-Broadway in 2006 with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, with Cynthia Nixon, and appeared on Broadway twice in 2008 in Come Back Little Sheba and The Seagull. However, Kazan already had been flirting with playwriting, having started a play—eventually titled Absalom—in Donald Margulies’ class while she was an undergraduate at Yale. She continued to hone the piece for several years, and finally submitted it to the Humana Festival at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. The family drama was accepted for the festival and was produced to great acclaim in 2009. Her second play, We Live Here, was commissioned and produced off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club in the fall of 2011. On the strength of her first two plays SCR commissioned Kazan to write a play for SCR, which yielded Trudy and Max in Love.

Kazan also has a successful career in film. She wrote, produced and starred in Ruby Sparks (2012) and appeared in Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road and Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated. Since wrapping Ruby Sparks, she has had starring roles in the independent films In Your Eyes, written and produced by Joss Whedon, and The Pretty One, written and directed by Jenee Lamarque. She recently completed filming The F Word, in which she stars opposite Daniel Radcliffe.
Trudy and Max first meet in a writer’s room in Brooklyn. Trudy is working on her second novel in her young adult series and Max, something of a celebrity writer, is new in town.

There’s nothing remarkable about their first conversation; they’re whispering to keep from disturbing the other writers as she tries to tell him how to get some coffee. Yet this brief encounter sparks a connection, and as their paths begin to cross repeatedly at the writer’s room, a friendship forms. Trudy is clear at the outset—she’s a happily married woman, and this relationship is platonic. In fact, Trudy can think of plenty of women she can set Max up with. But their chemistry and connection are undeniable; and what starts innocently enough sets an epic affair in motion.

At first glance, Trudy and Max in Love might sound like a conventional romantic comedy, but this play transcends its genre to subvert traditional notions of courting, love, and marriage in the modern world. How much is love a product of physical attraction, how much does it stem from a human need for stability—and what happens to the rest of your life once you’ve made a commitment? What does betrayal mean in a relationship that is itself a betrayal? What are the rules when you start out by breaking them?

Playwright Zoe Kazan has constructed Trudy and Max in Love as a series of seemingly innocuous scenes, weaving the fabric of a relationship with threads of the quotidian. The play is evocative of how someone might remember the events that comprise the story of a relationship, recalling pieces of conversations or fragments of a shared moment.

The two central characters are flanked by “The Other Man” and “The Other Woman,” who play a multitude of roles to fill in and flesh out the impact of other people’s lives on Trudy and Max’s affair—and vice versa. As a sort of memory play, the action is presented to the audience with no attempt to disguise the nature of the theatrical event we’re witnessing. We see the actors change costumes, shift furniture, and otherwise behaving as hired hands performing a job in between the scenes. Kazan is interested in the theatricality of these choices, exposing the artifice of the theatre construct to parallel the artifice of the world Trudy and Max have constructed for themselves. Kazan says her approach to the play was not to write the beginning or ends of scenes in a neat, concrete fashion, but instead to “write the most interesting part” of each scene and let audiences piece together the events of the affair and draw their own conclusions.

Zoe Kazan and Lila Neugebauer on the first day of rehearsal.

Director Lila Neugebauer, who skillfully directed the Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Trudy and Max in Love in last year’s festival, has returned to stage the full production. Neugebauer is a fast-rising, young theatre artist who has directed the work of many of the hottest young playwrights in the nation.

Neugebauer and Kazan have a history of collaboration that dates back to their college days at Yale. Their friendship has set a particularly convivial tone to the rehearsal room, and the cast has developed a quick camaraderie (they’ve bonded over the fact that all four actors are happily married). The cast includes Aya Cash, Michael Weston, Celeste Den and Tate Ellington. Cash commented recently that the work they’ve been doing on the play feels so intimate, it was startling the first time the design team came in to watch rehearsal—she’d nearly forgotten that an audience was imminent.

Learn more and purchase tickets.

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