Favorite

Play as Metaphor 

A skinny Englishman playing a Palestinian? It's no problem at LTW

When Jonathan Northover took over Live Theatre Workshop's edgy late-night Etcetera series last year, one play he most wanted to direct was Dirty Story, a savage comedy about ... well, more on that in a moment. What Northover didn't realize is that he'd not only direct but also star in the production, even though, technically, he's all wrong for the part.

John Patrick Shanley's Dirty Story starts off as a play about a man and a woman in New York who engage in a deep literary conversation and quickly get involved in a volatile relationship. At one point, the woman pulls a gun on the man and declares, "Call me Israel." Yes, she's Israel; he's Palestine, and before long, a big-talking Texan (the United States) gets into the middle of the situation.

"This is very tech heavy, and it's complex," Northover says. "I'm drawn to things that are horribly difficult. And I was starting to get really fussy about the casting." So he cast himself as Brutus, the Palestine figure. "Even though I'm this thin Englishman, about as un-Palestinian as can be," he admits. "But with a few costume tricks and silly accents, we can get away with it."

Actually, the decision wasn't so easy for Northover. First, he got Shanley's blessing. "Any actor can play the role of Brutus," Shanley assured him. "Go for it. Good luck." Then he had to get a co-director, because he doesn't believe an actor should try to direct himself. Enter Carolyn Marbry.

"She really has her finger on the political pulse of this play," says Northover. "The play is a big slap-me-in-the-face metaphor, so we have to try as much as we can not to let the metaphor turn into a cartoon, and breathe life into the characters. It's actually so well-written that I almost think the metaphor can take care of itself.

"Meanwhile, we've got to make sure the audience has time to absorb these complex, literary ideas Shanley will inject into a scene. Some of his sentences you could write a whole play about. It's full of brilliantly written banter, and beyond that, if you do this play 18 times, you're still finding new things in it. This guy has a planet brain.

"He wrote this in 2003, so it's still relevant today. It got good reviews in New York, but it hasn't been produced in very many other places. It's a well-written play that's also quite funny, and very dark. I'm thinking of putting a warning sign in the lobby: 'This play contains anal probing.'"

Tags: ,

More by James Reel

  • French Delights

    At Frogs Organic Bakery, the pastries will amaze you
    • Jan 5, 2012
  • His Name Is Max Thunder

    The story of a downtown social queen with cancer, a gay theater director with mental illness, and the child they're raising together
    • Jul 1, 2010
  • Convinced of Greatness

    Live Theatre Workshop trades laughs for substance with 'The Housekeeper'
    • Aug 27, 2009
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Magical Musical

    ATC’s reimagined ‘Man of La Mancha’ is a spectacular triumph
    • Dec 14, 2017
  • Grand Stage

    Looking back at the best productions of the year as the curtain closes on 2017
    • Dec 28, 2017

The Range

Keeping Pets Cool When the Weather Gets Hot

Gentlemen Afterdark Land On Stranger Things Soundtrack

In The Limelight | Birds and Arrows

More »

Latest in Review

  • All Over the Map

    TMA’s Travelogue traces the intersection of art and tourism in countries around the world
    • Jun 13, 2019
  • Casually Dysfunctional

    Live Theatre Workshop’s production of Appropriate is unsettling
    • Jun 6, 2019
  • More »

Most Commented On

Facebook Activity

© 2019 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation