A Response to Nate Eppler's LARRIES
We are extremely excited to have an amazing group of playwrights for our 2013-2014 Ingram New Works Project. This year we've asked each of our playwrights to write a commentary on our productions (Larries, The Importance of Being Earnest, Red, and Company). We not only want you to get to know the playwrights more personally, but we also want to open a channel of conversation between you and the playwrights. Are you ready to take a dive into the mind of our playwrights? First up is a commentary from our Ingram New Works Playwright Andrew Kramer and his thoughts on Nate Eppler's new play Larries.
We Must Do it a New Way A Response to Nate Eppler's Larries
I am a playwright. I write plays. And though the sole art form I engage in is that of writing plays, I have other obligations as a theatre artist that extend beyond penning new plays.
One of these “duties” – to myself, to my peers, to my community – is to voraciously devour new plays. In all ways. Whether that means reading, seeing, being a part of development…etc., it is both a passion and an obligation to be a part of the creative genesis, incubation, and nurturing of untold stories, of new great plays.
That being said, allow me to be a frank: there are some plays that are difficult for me invest in.
While this is obviously a personal preference, there are some new plays that, from simply reading the character descriptions, the setting, the time period (or sometimes all three of these things,) that immediately cause me to lose interest, assume things, and shut down. I’ll let you in on a secret…here is a list of things that turn me off:
- Plays about overly intellectual, wealthy, white, heterosexual grad students.
- Plays with an entire cast composed of male characters.
- Plays that take place in an absurdly expensive upper-class apartment and/or beach/vacation home. Especially on the East Coast. Yuck.
- Plays about philosophy. Like, actual philosophy. Like, when philosophers are characters and grin and giggle and smoke cigarettes and revel in their super-intelligent mental proposals.
- Plays that take place in one location, a living room, and begin with economically well-off characters having marital issues.
While all of these things make my queer, poor artist brain scream and crawl and claw to get away, I find myself ESPECIALLY impatient with plays that take place in one location, a living room, and begin with marital issues.
Nate Eppler’s Larries takes place in one location, a living room, and begins with economically well-off characters having marital issues. This, for me, is usually a recipe for Zzzzzzz’s. Snoozefest. Death by boredom.
There’s something so resoundingly theatrical, visceral, and satisfying about Larries and I found myself thoroughly engaged in the world that Nate Eppler had created on the page and then, the creatives at Nashville Repertory Theatre created on the stage.
Watching the premiere of this dark comedy (and boy, upon contemplation, is it dark) I found myself marveling at both the craft of artists involved and the explosive scope of the text. There’s some real talent at work. But what I found myself responding to most positively and with intense enthusiasm is what Larries does for American theatre.
We have seen domestic dramas more times than we can count. We have heard stories of feuding spouses, unhappy housewives, unruly children, and changing marital dynamics, so many times before. Do we need more? But what Larries showed me, was that If we’re going to continue crafting new plays on these topics, (which, I now think we should!) we must do it in a new way. To illustrate this, a belief I passionately hold, let’s look at LARRIES both literally and theatrically:
LITERALLY, for me (and a very astute older gentleman in the audience the night of a Friday Night Talkback!) Larries is about a woman, Wanda, who has found herself locked into an unhappy marriage with a man named Larry who doesn’t seem to live up to her expectations and can’t properly adhere to her desires. Wanda sends Larry an e-mail demanding another baby or a divorce. He doesn’t answer the e-mail. Wanda returns home, fired up, ready to settle this once and for all. We know that the aforementioned aspects of her husband- the disappointment, the lack of satisfaction- cause her a deep, deep unhappiness so she then must decide if her demands of having a baby or filing for divorce are, in fact, what she really wants.
Got it? Good.
THEATRICALLY, in a true display of Nate Eppler’s captivating and dynamic story-telling mind, Wanda returns home from sending an e-mail to her husband Larry, only to find him visibly shaken and nursing on a big ole’ bottle of vodka. Just as they launch into the thick of an argument about said e-mail, another Larry enters their home. ANOTHER Larry in body and voice and mind enters their living room. It is a different Larry, but in a way, the same Larry she’s married to. Then another one enters. Then another. Soon, Wanda finds herself stuck in her otherwise recognizable living room with shattered versions of her husband who have, through a cracked multi-verse, ended up here, in this nicely decorated home to either claim ownership over their marriage or, in one compelling case, deny it. She then, with the help of her deeply unhappy and ridiculously intelligent daughter, must figure out: what now?
Got it? Good.
At its core, Larries is a play that is quite recognizable in theme and idea. And, quite frankly, a play we’ve seen before and will see again. But what makes LARRIES so thrilling for me is that Nate Eppler fully operates in the domain of the theatrical. He realizes a true, recognizable situation into a world we’ve not seen before, into a world where metaphor is turned real, where themes pop in organically to say hello, smack us in the face, and then retreat into complex characters and dynamite subtext. A world where a simple e-mail can SHATTER THE MULTIVERSE. He takes the world we’re used to- the one location living room- and wrecks it, only to rebuild it into something new. It is at once a contribution to the canon and a new compelling story.
If we’re going to continue to invest in new plays and the American Theatre, we can’t continue to see plays that take place in one location, a living room, and begin with an economically well-off couple having marital issues.
We need plays like Larries.
We need plays that show us a recognizable, familiar world and, just as we think we know how it all will play out, as we’ve seen so many times before, the world CRACKS open into something deeper, darker, more theatrical. Something that has ACTUAL multiple versions of our husbands walking through the door to claim ownership (or denial!) over the marriage, NOT just another unhappy housewife wallowing about the different faces of her husband she can’t quite find contentment.
Our world is changing. Constantly. And we must change with it. Larries changes the recognizable. And that, my friends, is what we need.
We invite you to join in on the conversation with Andrew. We want to hear your thought! Please send us your comments below this blog entry. Would you like to learn more about Andrew and our other Ingram New Works Playwrights? Please visit http://nashvillerep.org/ingram-new-works to learn more.