David’s Last Week Begins – And in the Wilderness of Delaplane, A Doyna

We run for six more performances and then bring our six-week run to a close. Will anybody rue the onset of summer vacation? Do we all need one? Deserve one? Are we happy? I think we are.

We’ll be welcoming back our playwright, Yehuda Hyman, who’ll take in the final weekend. Just as we welcome Israeli director Sinai Peter, who’s flying in from Tel Aviv to conduct auditions for next season’s Israeli scorcher, THE ACCIDENT, by Hillel Mitelpunkt. Sinai was here a year ago, you’ll remember, for the staging of PANGS OF THE MESSIAH, the show that put this blog on the map! It’s our third round of auditions for the new season, as a month ago we cast the Serbian-Bosnian drama, HONEY BROWN EYES by Stefanie Zadravec, directed by Jessica Lefkow, and we were able to hire an amazing cast. Just last week we concluded auditions for our new comedy, THE RISE AND FALL OF ANNIE HALL, by Sam Forman, directed by Shirley Serotsky. Another great company on board for that. We got nothing but in this theater, thanks to the work of our star casting director, Naomi Robin. Where would we be without her? (Stuck on the phone forever, that’s where — and in far flung theaters, seeing everything and everyone, as Naomi so nobly does). So yes, we’re not only turning toward summer vacation; we’re turning toward next season.

But this weekend was spent with DAVID… On Saturday night, because we shared our stage with the Washington Jewish Music Festival, we took our performers out of the city and held a cultivation/celebration reception for our cast and producing angels at the weekend/summer home of Council Co-Chair Irene Wurtzel and her husband Alan. The Wurtzel compound is called the GrassRoots Farm and it’s a full 70 miles outside the city in Delaplane, VA. It rained for about 20 minute but otherwise was a beautiful, though blistering hot late afternoon into evening. After dinner, 45 of us gathered in the spacious living room to raise a toast to the team and then hear selections from the score of DAVID introduced and played by composer Daniel Hoffman, accompanied by bassist Joshua Schwartzman. Five of our cast members shared numbers. It was so beautiful. Daniel played a traditional Romanian doyna (or un-metered wedding tune cadenza) followed by the Doyna he wrote for David to play King Saul to sleep. A pretty masterful performance. The countryside setting, so evocative and lyrical. Why so special? Well, it was downright Chekhovian. And those associations were with me since the night before, I had driven up to Princeton, New Jersey and the McCarter Theatre where (TJ Resident Director) John Vreeke and I took in one of the final weekend performances of Emily Mann’s freely adapted A SEAGULL IN THE HAMPTONS. How was it? A wonderful production; Maria Tucci, Larry Pine, Brian Murray and our friend (and former U of Michigan student Laura Heisler). The playbill notes recalled the original SEAGULL’s troubled launch; the perceived “failure” of that first production, where Chekhov’s play was widely misunderstood; where his odd, life-like rhythms were said to be alienating to an audience unused to a blend of realism and symbolism; extended musings on nature–the elements emerging as almost a character itself–while the play’s tone remained steadfastly illusive, neither fully comic nor traditionally tragic; a pastiche of sublimated romance and existential tragedy. What were audiences watching way back when?

It would take another several years before a new production could bring a new audience up to speed with what Chekhov was now confidently creating; new hybrid syntheses of styles that coursed with life, unpredictably, in their own non-traditional meter. It took a while for THE SEAGULL to become a fixture; to assert its success.

And so too, perhaps, the wonderful DAVID… Out there in Delaplane, in a setting far from the city, a bunch of theater people congregating in bittersweet celebration for what they had longingly dreamed of and brought to fruition. We were at one with the elements of nature, and the facets of art that complement the rhythms of nature so movingly. We were looking forward toward a season-ending production a year from now; A SEAGULL for our times, but we were also celebrating a DAVID of our moment as well. We were happy that DAVID and Chekhov were all wrapped up in each other’s business that night. Because it seemed, oddly, pretty appropriate; that the Shadow and Light be co-mingled in the fields of gold and green in the hot, rainy dusk of Delaplane. We were happy to be together. And grateful for the generosity of our wonderful hosts.