A Buffalo Bills fan lands in the backfield of the Martha’s Vineyard home team.
(LtoR) Daniel Pearce as Ethan, Cassie Beck as Devon and Sara Surrey as Michaela in Elemeno Pea
Humana Festival of New American Plays
Actors Theatre of Louisville, 2011
Photo by Joe Geinert
Do Not Miss This Play! In preparation for my first interview with playwright Molly Metzler Smith back in January I took the opportunity to read a draft of Elemeno Pea. I was immediately taken by the characters and the richness of her storytelling. In the intervening months she has made significant adjustments that are all to the good. This is the kind of play that has made The Humana Festival of New America Plays such an important part of the international theatre community. To date three Pulitzer Prize winning plays and a finalist have come out of the Actors Theatre of Louisville festival, along with scores of published works. That Elemeno Pea will have a life after Louisville seems a sure bet and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear a few years from now that it is a contender for major awards.
In his 1926 short story The Rich Boy F. Scott Fitzgerald famously observed of the very rich, “They are different from you and me.” This is obviously true in terms of their habits, and great wealth like chronic illness, or relentless tragedy shapes any person’s views and priorities; but the story Metzler Smith tells in Elemeno Pea rather demonstrates the truth of Irish columnist and educator Mary Colum’s less famous comment to Ernest Hemingway that the only difference between the rich and other people is that they have more money. The genius of Smith Metzler’s play lies partially in her ability to show us that even among “the rich,” as in any community, there are nuances understood within the tribe.
The action of Smith Metzler’s play is set in a Martha’s Vineyard guest house belonging to a nouveau riche advertising executive, Peter and his “trophy wife” Michaela. Scenic designer Michael B. Raiford has created a set that reflects the home owner’s attempt at carless opulence, enhanced by lighting designer Brian J. Lilienthal’s subtly in creating a sense of the sea and sky beyond the balcony that dominates the back of the stage. This is an invaluable contribution since the story is told in real time, without intermission.
Although we never meet the “meticulous” read “control freak” and fickle Peter, his presence surrounds the action of the play like a proscenium. Discovering the characters is key to the enjoyment and impact of Elemeno Pea and there is little I could relate about the story that would not undermine your experience. So let it suffice for me to give my best to the wonderful cast who deliver uniformly outstanding performances and to director Davis McCallum for his masterful handling in presenting the pathos and humor of Smith Metzler’s script.
Elemeno Pea is not a play about people who have money–lots and lots of money. It’s a story about us and how circumstances, our reactions to life and the choices we make irrevocably change us into the people we are; people we are sometimes forced to be for a greater good. This is a story of unexamined lives and the little lies we tell ourselves to get through the day; it’s a story about that day when our ship runs aground and we grab up the wreckage to keep from drowning. Traumatic events are great levelers and sometimes expose a hero among the hoi polloi. That is what makes Elemeno Pea great theatre and that is why you should not allow this play to leave town without experiencing it for yourself.
Elemeno Pea runs through April 3 in the Pamela Brown auditorium at Actors Theatre of Louisville. For tickets call the box office at 502.584.1205 or go to www.actorstheatre.org for more the 35th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays.
Come back soon and you will have an opportunity to see a video interview with the playwright.