Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You Can't Go Home Again

by Kelly L. Miller

In the Rehearsal Room
Inspiration for Reunion

Tim Cummings and Michael Gladis in rehearsal for the 2013 Pacific Playwrights reading of Reunion.
Heading into rehearsals for Reunion, playwright Gregory S Moss and director Adrienne Campbell talked a lot about Moss’ inspiration for the play and what other resources—plays, movies, books and imagery—inspired the dark, hyper-natural story and style of his visceral, contemporary comedy.  Here’s a list of our favorite rehearsal room resources for your reading and viewing pleasure:

  • The Old Neighborhood by David Mamet
  • The Caretaker by Harold Pinter
  • Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp
  • True West by Sam Shepard
  • Some Girls by Neil LaBute
  • punk play by Gregory S Moss
  • “Townie: a memoir” by Andre Dubus III
  • The Town
  • The Fighter
  • Stand By Me
  • The Hangover
  • The Three Stooges
  • Jackass: The Movie
The Town.
Max, Peter and Mitch haven’t seen each other since their high school graduation 25 years ago. Former best friends, they’ve returned to their hometown the night of their high school reunion—to the same run down motel room where they partied decades ago. The plan? To reconnect, get wasted, and relive the fun and debauchery of their youth. 

The night begins innocently enough: Max and Peter reminisce about the girls they liked in high school and talk about their lives since: they’ve both moved away and become fathers.  Peter’s been dying to see his old friends—and he’s been trying (and failing) for years to stay in touch. They’re waiting for Mitch to arrive for the party to begin.  He’s the only one of them who never left town—and he still lives in his parents’ house.
To say that playwright Gregory S Moss is busy these days is an understatement. Lately, he has been splitting his time between New York and New Mexico, where he runs the graduate program of dramatic writing at the University of New Mexico. Moss recently finished two new plays and he’s writing the book of a musical based on the life and work of Hunter S. Thompson with Joe Iconis. He’s also working on a new show about Charles Ludlum with the renowned Pig Iron Theatre Company of Philadelphia. Heading into rehearsals for Reunion, SCR’s Literary Director Kelly Miller talked to Moss about his writing—and the ferocity of the characters and music in his work.
Their well-meaning reunion turns quickly into a twisted trip down memory lane, as the men move backwards through nostalgia—for the boys and friends they once were—regressing to the darker memories of their shared adolescence.  Their memories are unreliable, pain runs deep, and it will take them all night to sift through their past friendships in search of understanding.

At its core, Gregory S Moss’ new play Reunion is a scathingly funny two-act comedy about male friendship, aging and reconciliation. It’s a story that excavates male cruelty to explore the nuanced, complicated emotion inherent in male friendship. Moss has described the play as:  “Tennessee Williams on the inside.  David Mamet on the outside.”  In it, he is both exploring and subverting the dramatic genre of the male bonding story—represented in pop culture recently by “bromances” like “The Hangover”; and in theater, by male comedies of menace by playwrights like Neil LaBute, Sam Shepard, David Mamet and Harold Pinter.

View Adrienne Campbell-Holt's design presentation for Reunion—her early thoughts on the play.

The inspiration for Reunion was also personal. Moss says:  “I was interested in writing about the characters I knew back in Newburyport, Mass., where I grew up. There's a specific brand of Massachusetts macho that fascinates me. It's a front, in the same way I think the Mamet or Pinter characters machismo is a front. I wanted to see the soft side of these characters. Excavate the deeper feeling in them. And I wanted—in some regard—to evoke the specifics of the city I grew up in—the slang, the locales, the secret places that comprised my childhood there.”

He continues, “I was interested in thinking about the BAD KIDS I grew up with—the tough stoners, the juvenile delinquents, the bullies and metal heads—and I was wondering what might have happened to them. Them and other people from my high school days. I'm not in touch with anyone from that part of my life, so the play allowed me to investigate them, remember them, conjure them up again.”

Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt returns to SCR to direct the world premiere of Reunion, following its hit staged reading during the 2013 Pacific Playwrights Festival. “Reunion is my favorite kind of play,” she says. “It is funny, surprising, and hyper-theatrical. And it packs a major emotional punch. I love that it’s about working-class people and set in a place I know well.  At the same time, I think everyone can relate to the world of this play.  We all know at least one of these men—and I think some people who ‘don’t like theatre’ will love this play. That excites me.”

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1 comment:

  1. My husband and I liked this play the best of all the readings in last year's PPF, so we have ordered tickets to attend opening night as well as attending the final week of the run on our regular season tickets. We are most curious to see how the violence in the play, the demolishing of the hotel room, is going to be handled in the performance. It is deeply emotional on so many levels. Bravo to the playwright and to the actors who we saw in the reading and are returning for the mounting of the play.
    Vina Williams and Tom Slattery