A Fitting Intro to Sam Forman’s Wonderful Play

from The Moscows of Nantucket playbill:

In Photograph 51, our last new play at Theater J, we presented a portrait of collaboration gone amiss; of partnership between brilliant scientists on the threshold of discovery, with the best samples, the best instruments and scientific equipment, unable to overcome perceived slights, grudges and petty competitive streaks (which is to say, self-generated obstacles); so unable were Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins to move past interpersonal issues that the promise of their potential greatness gave way to regret, remorse, and then, of course, premature finality, as day-to-day dysfunction clouded the horizon of the Great Task before them.

Fresh from experiencing that bittersweet history, we step out onto the deck of the Moscow family compound for our season finale, Sam Forman’s terribly funny world premiere about a different kind of daily dysfunction; about jealousies and well-nursed grudges standing in the way of professional advancement and personal fulfillment. The central, binding element of this wicked, yet warm comedy is that of family members unable to enjoy the ample gifts that affluence has afforded them.

We see intelligent, loving, mostly attentive parents each nursing hurt feelings and internalizing filial criticism; and quickly we meet their two sons–intensely competitive, needy, aspiring–brothers who, each in their own way, articulate a deep psychological pain and a need to be affirmed. No matter how rich the food, how stunning the view, or how privileged the place on this island of High Society social networking, our Brothers Moscow, Benjamin and Michael, are keenly aware of everything they don’t have and have never received. Each family member’s sense of being aggrieved and left wanting has never really gone away. Like the scientists Rosalind and Wilkins, Michael and Benjamin Moscow are unable to communicate or collaborate; that is until the play pushes forward to its finale, earning its comic stripes.

The play presents a useful prototype for so many of us with families; or for those who work in organizations where we fail to agree on a present and a future because something isn’t right; resentments are too much etched onto the surface of the skin. It will take these Moscow characters–just as it will take us in real life–time to forgive and to rearticulate a new way of relating–a series of new ways of interacting within this traditional, privileged family structure. By play’s end, characters may stand at the threshold of breakthrough, but they’ll still only get to the other side through lots of hard work.

May these Moscows of Nantucket be an inspiration to us all (whether we’re vacationing with family, or not); that from difficult, untrusting, yet loving relationships, may the magic of the ocean, the sand, the sun, the baby-sitter, and the wise White Trash new daughter-in-law from Georgia each offer new light; a new way; a new day in which each may help another navigate the challenging crossroads lying before us.

In that healing spirit, let us look to the new season at Theater J with excitement and deep appreciation for the close community we’ve become. Having been through our most acclaimed, most popular, and most financially remunerative season ever this past year, we acknowledge that we have nonetheless (or perhaps as a result) been subjected to occasional resentments and grievances from within our own community. Hopefully, that winter of discontent has given way to a springtime of appreciation, each for the other–a big community that, like each of our families, contains all the melodic strains of the human symphony; elements to be orchestrated into a more perfect union.