Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"OR CURRENT RESIDENT" @ THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY

Krystle Adams With Betty Hudson And Curry Whitmire



NEW YORK -- Part of our shared experience as Americans today is how we strain under the weight of the tech sector. Millionaires are made overnight and we endure the distortions of social media while gentrification pushes us out of our homes. When that happens, it rips us away from our history as if we never mattered. That's the idea behind "Or Current Resident," a new play by Joan Bigwood, which will be performed by Squeaky Bicycle Productions from February 3 to 25 at Theater for the New City, where it is a resident company. Brandi Varnell, Artistic Director of Squeaky Bicycle, directs.




ABOUT THE SHOW



The play is set in a Silicon Valley bungalow, from which three generations of the Finch family are in constant fear of being uprooted. The family patriarch, an engineer, has passed on, and the resilient matriarch, Mimi, holds the household together in cramped and rambunctious harmony. Everyone pools their earnings to rent month-by-month from a landlord who is yielding to the tech-driven real estate market: she is "making other plans for the property," meaning she will sell the house to a Facebook millionaire. Ironically, the tech sector both suppresses and sustains the Finches, since their primary breadwinners--Mimi's two daughters--make their livings off it. Lynn, an aspiring realtor, white-knuckles a marginal living based on housing turnover. Jill, an agoraphobic technical writer, earns meager fees writing user manuals from home. Jill has twin 16 year-olds: Mason, a budding film maker bewitched by war movies, and Molly, an addict to social media. Both teens are being bullied in school. This crowded household becomes explosive when Ted, Mimi's ex-con son, is released from prison and tries to fit himself back into the family unit.


While Mimi uses her optimistic disposition to steer her family through hardships, she may finally be overmatched. The fragility of the family's finances challenges the earning power of Lynn and Jill. There is great personal drama in the struggles of Mason, Molly and Ted. The teens are outsiders, ostracised from their peer groups. Crisis ensues for Molly when she is ambushed on social media. Ted is straining to reintegrate into society and clings desperately to the life lessons in serenity that he learned in prison. He struggles to defend Molly in her Facebook fracas but fumbles awkwardly in his attempts to help her. Mason, fighting for his own self-image, attempts to stage a backyard combat scene for a video project that could gain him some respect. He uses prop weapons that attract a police raid. Of all the Finches, Jill provides the most formidable challenge to her family. She is battling mental illness and struggling to reclaim ownership of her circumstances. Who will have the resources to take care of her when Mimi is gone?


The dramedy reveals a family in crisis as it lies shivering in the cold glare of untenable revelations. Silicon Valley, which they can no longer afford, has first sustained but ultimately expelled their family together with its history, as if it never mattered. The play's themes carry very real stakes, but its characters are endearing and drawn with wit. The piece was inspired by stories and events of playwright Joan Bigwood's earlier life in Palo Alto and her friendship with a fellow writer, now deceased, who went to prison for a crime he didn't commit. The play was developed as part of Squeaky Bicycle's 2016 Reading Lab under the guidance of the Company’s resident dramaturg, Kathryn McConnell.


Director Brandi Varnell has cast the nuclear family non-traditionally, as the experiences of the Finch family are universal. She explains, "The issues this family face--finances, gentrification, mental illness, criminality, school bullying--are common to all of us. As soon as you say they are somebody else's problem, they will affect you too. The more you look at the commonality of these issues, the more empathetic you will be."


The very realistic set by Meg McGuigan will highlight the family's history in the home and their relationship to technology in all its forms.



Playwright Joan Bigwood, currently a resident of Newmarket, NH, is a graduate of Smith College who studied scriptwriting under Olwen Wymark in London. A flair for doggerel earned her an international prize sponsored by Givenchy and inspired the book and lyrics to "Hats Off!," a show about a London hat shop that was shortlisted for the prestigious Vivian Ellis Prize and staged by Nantucket Theatre Workshop in 2016. Her first novel, "Co-opted," won an IndieReader Discovery Award in 2011. Unfinished works include "First Person Plural," a two-woman dramedy about the Mexican-American experience, and a novel about the working poor in America.


Director Brandi Varnell is a director, Equity actress and co-founder of Squeaky Bicycle Productions. She has directed the company's productions of "Alligator Summer" by Dylan Lamb and "Lumbricus Terrestris" by Emily Daly. She holds a BA in Theatre from The New School and sits on the board of the Weathervane Theater Alumni Association.


Betty Hudson (who appeared in "George M" on Broadway) plays the matriarch, Mimi Finch. Bettina Goolsby plays Lynn, the realtor. Krystle N. Adams plays Jill, mother of the teenage twins. Curry Whitmire plays Mason and Carly King plays Molly. Michael Vitaly Sazanov plays Ted, the ex-con. Set design is by Meg McGuigan. Lighting design is by S. "Stoli" Stolnack. Sound design is by Megan Culley.


Squeaky Bicycle (www.squeakybicycleproductions.com), founded in 2010 and dedicated to new works, is now a resident company of Theater for the New City. The company values the development process, seeking to nurture every contributor's artistic journey, offering a safe place to take risks and explore the depths of their talents. Brandi Varnell is Artistic Director; Kathryn McConnell is Executive Producer and Literary Manager. Ms. Varnell writes, "Theater for the New City has been an institution for innovative new work for decades, one of the most known and respected downtown theaters. We could not be more appreciative and more inspired by our residency at TNC. Crystal Field and the staff of TNC have offered us such support and insight as we pursue our artistic vision. They believe in the unique voice of the artists they work with, and we are truly thankful to be nurtured by the innovators and creators at TNC."


Photo Courtesy Of: Jonathan Slaff
 

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