Richard Nelson's new play closes a chapter in theater history

Jay O. Sanders , who along with his wife, Maryann Plunkett – “the beating heart” of the panorama, as Nelson called it – performed in the ...


Jay O. Sanders, who along with his wife, Maryann Plunkett – “the beating heart” of the panorama, as Nelson called it – performed in the 12 pieces, remembers asking a question during “The Gabriels” to which a man in the audience spoke quickly answered who, like the one in Kate’s story, apparently wanted to join them at the table.

But this is the effect of Nelson’s style, in which no argument is made and people stand for nothing; as Sanders said, “The drama of just living is enough.” In a note for “What happened? Nelson includes a revealing quote from one of his heroes, early 20th-century theater artist Harley Granville-Barker:

One is tempted to imagine a play – to be written with the desperate contempt of Aristotle – from which Make would be completely eliminated, in which nothing but being would be left. The task assigned to the actors would be to interest their audience in what the characters were, regardless of everything they could do.

Easier to imagine than to do. Nelson said that whenever he writes a line that sounds like him or his beliefs, it is cut. “The truth,” he added, “comes from characters talking to another character, not for the audience to hear.”

During rehearsals, actors are encouraged to speak as they would at home, and not to project as they usually would. They know at all times where they are directing their questions or lines. In real life, said Nelson, someone rarely speaks to an entire room; so neither are his characters.

“It’s very unusual,” Sanders said. “And it takes a lot of courage.”

The pieces have flashes of foreknowledge and recognition. You can, for example, trace the career of former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo through the Seven Apple Coins, which open in the media with an expletive and mention of his name. The first installment of “The Gabriels”, from early March 2016, includes the now haunting line: “Don’t you feel that something really bad is going to happen? “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Richard Nelson's new play closes a chapter in theater history
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