Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Prayer For Prayer

A Prayer For Prayer

Yesterday, I was very intrigued to learn that Victoria Clark, who won a Tony for her bravura perform-ance as Margaret Johnson in Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza, has been cast in the upcoming Off-Broadway production of Lucas' play Prayer For My Enemy at Playwrights Horizons.

Just as in Piazza, this incredibly talented actress will once again be working under the direction of Bartlett Sher, who just earned his well-deserved first Tony for his loving direction of the current revival for South Pacific.

Sher, of course, also serves as artistic director for Seattle's Intiman Theatre, and it was there that I first took in the world premiere production of Prayer For My Enemy, which he helmed. Regular readers may recall that at the time, I said:

Unfortunately, the production under Bartlett Sher's direction feels incomplete and as unfocused as each character's out-of-body psycho-babbling thought processing.

That's not to say that parts of the overly ambitious dual story lines aren't intriguing.
In fact, there's a lot of "there" there.

The Playwrights Horizons casting of Jonathan Groff as Billy, a U.S. soldier in Iraq, has also piqued my renewed interest in the work, and it will certainly mark a major departure from his Tony-nominated turn as Melchior in Spring Awakening. In fact, Spring Awakening fans might find more parallels between Billy and Moritz, with a dash of Ernst thrown in for good measure.

While further casting has yet to be announced, I was pleased to see Skipp Sudduth (South Pacific, Writer's Block) cast as Prayer's father Austin. Cassie Beck (The Drunken City) will portray Billy's sister Marianne.

Playwrights Horizons describes the play as follows:

It’s a hell of a night for the Noones -- father Austin’s watching his nature shows and trying to keep from falling off the wagon, mother Karen’s keeping an eye on Austin, son Billy’s just back from Iraq, and pregnant daughter Marianne’s upset about the state of her marriage to Tad, Billy’s childhood friend who may still harbor a crush on him. With the Red Sox battling the Yankees for the 2004 AL title, an American family’s long-held secrets are dragged to the fore in what may be its final reckoning. Prayer For My Enemy is a pæan to our age, a keenly-layered drama about the preciousness of life and the grace to share common ground -- even with those we love the least.
Judging from the description, it appears that the play may have certainly evolved, perhaps even significantly, since first being presented in Seattle (after its world premiere there, it was presented last fall at Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre). As my last line from my SOB Review last summer would attest, I'm certainly hoping that it has become more focused in time for its New York City premiere:
Prayer For My Enemy certainly aspires to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, yet in its current state, it's strangely deficient. Whether it will be shored up before heading to Long Wharf Theatre next month remains to be seen. Since I greatly admire Craig Lucas, I'll say a little prayer.
I'm still praying.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Prayer For My Enemy (The SOB Review) (August 22, 2007)

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At 10 July, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

I think it is really interesting to see how a work evolves, and that's certainly a unique thing about the theatre - unlike a movie or a book or a cd, you have a chance to do that.

As we know, "Good Boys and True" had changed quite a bit between the time you saw it and when I saw it. I'm going to be seeing Adam Bock's "The Receptionist" at Trinity Rep next year, and while I don't think there'll be major changes, I'm curious to see how it differs from the off-Broadway production.

And I'm definitely with you on Jonathan Groff. I loved "Spring Awakening," especially Groff, John Gallagher Jr. and Lea Michele. They are all so talented and I'd love to see them again.

At 10 July, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, I think it's always fascinating seeing how shows can change. I've seen two productions of The Pillowman in as many years, and three of Gypsy in as many years, and all have been very different.

Later this year, I'm excited to return to Steppenwolf to see their take on The Seafarer, one of my favorite plays from the past year on Broadway. I have no doubt it will be a different and unique experience.

I'm just hoping as Craig Lucas has continued to sharpen Prayer For My Enemy that the result is one that will have me singing its praises.


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