The room in Erector Square on Peck Street that houses Collective Consciousness Theater seats 60 at the most, and that’s pushing the limit. Its small size means that during a show audience members — sitting on folding chairs, with the front row just a few feet from the stage — are incredibly close to the actors. And each other.
Actor George Guidall had grown up receiving his Jewish education from a melamed. He had deeply religious family members. So he knew a lot about the background of the rabbi he plays in Long Wharf Theatre’s upcoming production of The Chosen, which runs Nov. 22 to Dec. 17.
But he also found himself in tension with that character — and possibly, in doing so, practicing his culture and his faith.
On a recent rainy night, I arrived at the packed parking lot at Erector Square, then waited outside a glass door to be admitted to hallways and stairs. Two people led me to a double door on the second floor, and the rehearsal and performance space of Collective Consciousness Theatre. My guides were Production Stage Manager Brionna Ingraham and Assistant Stage Manager Eddie Chase. I entered and walked into a down-at-heels bedroom. Cracked plaster, a bed, a mirror, some wall art. A big chair. Jamie Burnett was on a ladder, hanging lights.
It was David Sepulveda’s set for the first CCT production of the new season: Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog, a play described as “two brothers in a room.” It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002, making Parks the first African-American author to win that award.
Eleanor Bannister and Abel Brown are at odds again. Abel says he’s looking for work, but has also made it pretty clear that his interest in Eleanor goes beyond the professional. Eleanor can’t decide if he’s a con man or just a man with a complicated life, and can’t deny the feelings she has for him, too. They’re both too smart, and a little too stubborn, to just let it go. Abel makes a last pitch to help Eleanor fix up the rundown cottage at the back of her property, which they both know also means they’ll be seeing a lot more of each other. Or, he says, in a moment of counterfactual argument, he could just burn the old cottage down and be on his way.
“If that’s what you want,” Abel says.
Eleanor lets her guard down. “I don’t know what I want, Abel,” she says.
Abel thinks about this. “Seems right to tell you, Eleanor, that those are exactly the words every con man wants to hear.”
The male director didn’t know much about the culture of beauty parlors in general, and even less about black women’s salons and their hairstyles and how you use hot tools to achieve those big hairdos popular in the distant past of the 1980s.
The actors—all teenagers—had never operated such an ancient device as a rotary telephone and honestly didn’t know which button to push to send the call. Most also had never seen an old-fashioned coffee table ashtray.
Early in the first act of the Yale Repertory’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Reg Rogers) has just had a confrontation with his brother, Peter Stockmann (Enrico Colantoni), who happens to be the mayor of the town where they both live. The mayor has asked his brother to keep an unpleasant discovery under wraps. The doctor agonizes over what to do, then settles on defiance.
“I’ll never bow my neck under their yoke,” he says. He will not be silent.
Before finishing Fireflies — which has its world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre Wednesday night — playwright Matthew Barber first took a road trip to southern Texas in 2010 to meet an 80-year-old retired schoolteacher named Annette Sanford, who had written a story Barber couldn’t get out of his head.
A fledgling experiment after the Civil War. A voice, clear as a bell, on the other end of the line. A heartbeat of current and wire. A signal that the only way was onward, through person-to-person communication.