(Maia DiSanti and Alexander Strain)
Things go very well on stage here as we enter opening weekend for HONEY BROWN EYES. We now have two previews under our belts with good houses buoyed by “Free Night of Theater” attendees. The talk-back Thursday night reflected a deeply stirred house. Clearly, the considerable on stage violence leaves its mark on an audience. One woman at our first preview spoke of having “lived a very sheltered life” compared to what she saw on stage. She was grateful for the experience of being in the theater. Last night a woman offered that the play is as eloquent a statement as can be made about the “brutality, absurdity, and inhumanity of war between people who, in the end, are so much a like.” We’re getting the silences we need and the laughs we want; the play’s clocking in at less than 100 minutes (not including the intermission) so it feels both terse and kinetic, but also allows itself–especially in the Sarajevo scenes–to unfold in a naturalistic, sometimes even leisurely pace–albeit that leisure is often punctuated by sniper fire. The play has come a long way since we first read it in rough draft form in our library some 9 months ago. It’s been quite a quick and pleasurable birthing experience, given the rough and tough subject matter and the frequent emotional sink-holes our actors invariable encounter as their characters participate–or are witness to abject horror.
The big question for all of us: Will people come see this play? We don’t have a huge advance. We don’t even have a GOOD advance. What we do have is some extraordinary press coverage over the past week. Has it translated into box office? Only a little bit. This ain’t no Sandra Bernhard. And it ain’t no Robert Prosky or Judy Gold. But what it is, is very finely wrought theater, with super sharp and cutting dialogue, utterly listenable in its unfolding, with pin-drop tension, a jaw dropping plot revelation (quite literally), and terrific performances throughout.
Do I worry whether people will want to see a war story during these economically depressing times? Yes, I worry. So what? I am much more steeled by the resolve that we are doing the right thing — that we are producing a play with moral urgency, and that our reading series reflects the same sense of purpose. And yes, we’re not delivering candy to the starving masses. We’re not offering escape. There are no Beverly Hills Chihuahuas on our stage. We only have heartbreak, hope, inhumanity and murder, war, and renewal. Not everybody’s cup of tea? We don’t need everybody. We need only the best, the brightest, the sleepy and somnambulant (meaning the sleep walkers amongst us) eager to be roused; eager to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken by a strong new voice and an energetic young cast, with one wonderfully young-at-heart non-youngster in the mix.
Very proud of this show. Very excited for opening night. Very worried about box office. Very bummed about the stock market. Very much looking forward to our programming. So what else is new? Come check us out early — and respond to the play here on the blog and during our Sunday discussions and thursday night talk-backs and Peace Cafes. Check out our website for all the offerings over the next six weeks.
Break a leg, Zadravec!