THE WAY OF THE WORLD
Monday, February 27, 7:30 pm
Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher St.
Directed by Theresa Rebeck
Featuring Amir Arison, Mark Linn-Baker, Josiah Bania, Kristine Nielsen, Hettienne Park, Katie Paxton, Olivia Reis, David Turner, Zoe Winters
Freely adapted from William Congreve’s masterpiece, this contemporary retelling shifts the story to the demi-monde of the hyper-rich Hamptons. Can love emerge in a world where love has no value?
A good-hearted heiress has become prey to the attentions of an amoral party boy. After he callowly seduces her aunt, making the older woman a figure of public ridicule, their romance is dead in the water. But his insistence on winning back the moneyed heroine fuels the summer’s gossip in the land of the one-percent.
NEW YORK PREMIERE
The OBIE Award-Winning Revelation Readings series provides a unique opportunity to hear rarely-produced classic plays performed by many of the finest actors in New York.
ABOUT the ORIGINAL
On his return to the throne in 1660, Charles II brought back from France two radical developments for the English theater: French neoclassicism and female performers on the stage. Audience tastes were changing; during the Restoration, Jonson and Beaumont and Fletcher were the favorite revivals; Shakespeare’s “fancy” was less popular because Restoration drama is extremely realistic - it’s a mirror image of society. Shakespeare was too fanciful, too unreal.
The prime example of this new realism, the introduction of the female performer, changed the very essence of spectatorship. The popularity of breeches roles in Restoration theater sprang from a very different impulse from that of the earlier all-male performance tradition. Now the interest was in seeing the actual legs of real women on stage, along with the many opportunities for revealing the disheveled décolletage of female performers during scenes of quite explicit sexual pursuit. The female body became an object of intense interest in its own right, both onstage and off, and created a new climate of celebrity for female performers, whose abilities as actresses often took second place to their status as cultural curiosities.
Representing both the pinnacle and the conclusion of Restoration drama, The Way of the World (1700) epitomizes the psychology of manner -- the way people behave (hence the title.) Motive is assumed to be the same for all: to get sex, to get money, and to remain young. Later on, motives become a bit more subtle: sex becomes marriage, though marriage seen only in economic terms; women are discussed in terms of their fortune. Marriage vows mean nothing: sex/marriage becomes a game of wit and imagination that both can play. The wit resides in the very action of the play itself -- each strategic plan registers a difference between what the characters really want and the rhetoric surrounding the way the action is committed. This focus on manner creates a theatricalized language of morality and underlies the game structure of Restoration comedy.
Kathleen Dimmick, Dramaturg
ABOUT the ADAPTATION
On the surface, the characters in Rebeck's Hamptons-set Way of the World have quite a bit more personal freedom than those in formal Restoration London. They can marry, flirt, and sleep with whomever they want. Rebeck introduces us to not only her witty lovers, Mae and Henry, but to Mae's flamboyant aunt Renee, Mae's shopaholic "frenemy'' Katrina, and Henry's sexually versatile best friend Charles. And instead of Restoration beaux, we now have restaurant-hopping bros: including the frat boyish Reg. But, for all the modern differences, these characters aren't so unlike Congreve's Londoners. These Hamptonites - reflecting modern America itself - live in a society made oppressive by an extreme over-emphasis on money, consumerism, and luxury: conspicuous consumption and heartless hook-ups in place of Congreve's marriage contracts. Rebeck's characters, like Congreve's, live in a world of masks and surfaces, where the expression of genuine feeling has been rendered into something grotesque and "contemptible," as Mae complains.
Maya Cantu, Dramaturg
ABOUT the PLAYWRIGHT
THERESA REBECK is a prolific writer with success spanning theater, television, film, and literature. She has been named one of the 150 Fearless Women in the World by Newsweek and The New York Times has referred to her as “one of her generation’s major talents.” She is best known for her plays Seminar and Mauritius, which both premiered on Broadway, and her earlier works Spike Heels, Bad Dates and Omnium Gatherum, (Pulitzer Finalist, co-written with Alex Gersten) and her TV show Smash.
Additional theater credits include Dead Accounts, The Scene, The Water’s Edge, Loose Knit, Seared, The Nest, Behavior, The Butterfly Collection, Our House, The Understudy, and View of the Dome.
Theresa adapted and directed the film version of Poor Behavior and her newest feature film, Trouble. Other films include Harriet the Spy, Gossip, Sunday on the Rocks and Seducing Charlie Barker. In addition to Smash, Ms. Rebeck has writing and producing credits for television projects including Dream On, Brooklyn Bridge, L.A. Law, American Dreamer, First Wave, Third Watch, Law and Order: Criminal Intent and NYPD Blue.
Theresa has been honored to receive the National Theatre Conference Award, the William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award, PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Award, the Athena Film Festival Award, an Alex Award, a Lilly Award, the Mystery Writer’s of America’s Edgar Award, the Writer’s Guild of America award for Episodic Drama, the Hispanic Images Imagen Award, and the Peabody.
Ms. Rebeck is originally from Cincinnati and holds an MFA in Playwriting and a PhD. in Victorian Melodrama, both from Brandeis University. She is a proud board member of the Dramatists Guild, a Contributing Editor to the Harvard Review, an Associate Artist of the Roundabout Theatre Company, a Playwright Adviser and Board Member of the LARK and has taught at Brandeis University and Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.