Tourists on getaways often make new friendships with others who share their passions. Those relationships can end when the suitcase is unpacked back home or go on to become lasting friendships. August Strindberg employed unusual elements in his 1888 tragicomedy about meeting new friends. Anticipation about Doug Wright's adaptation of Strindberg's play is abuzz in theater circles. The world premiere of "Creditors" runs at the La Jolla Playhouse from Sept. 29 through Oct. 25.
"Creditors" is about an artist and his wife who go to a seaside resort. When the artist strikes up a conversation with another guest; the two engage in topics from art to marriage. The simple conversations ultimately promote hidden feelings about economics, sexuality, and women that result in a labyrinth of intrigue and suspicion.
In addition to director Wright, the design team includes Robert Brill, sets; Susan Hilferty, costumes, Japhy Weideman, lighting; Jill BC DuBoff, sound designer; Shirley Fishman, dramaturg; and Jennifer Wheeler, stage manager.
The Playhouse's pick for Wright to take on the commission of "Creditors" is understandable. His play, "I Am My Own Wife," which was staged at the Playhouse in 2004, earned him the Pulitzer prize, a Tony award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk award. He also received Tony and Drama Desk nominations in 2006 for his book for the Broadway musical "Grey Gardens." He's won numerous other awards and worked with major studios on films such as Disney's "The Little Mermaid," and "Quills," which was nominated for three Academy Awards.
T. Ryder Smith ("Equus," "Dead Man's Cell Phone," "Lincolnesque") plays the friend Gustav in "Creditors." He said he found the play a dream project. "It's a wonderful cast and collection of designers," Smith said. "Doug's insightful and generous attitude toward collaboration from the designers to every one in the room makes us all feel we are discovering this story together."
Smith said he's always wanted to do a Strindberg play. "He's almost a forgotten playwright and I think he's sometimes thought of as a relic with an unbelievably archaic backward attitude about women. But he's a more sensitive and fair-minded playwright than that. Because he's not done, and he's very hard to do well, (in addition to the fact) that Doug is a very insightful and generous writer and director, I was very interested in doing this play."
The cast has only three members, including Kathryn Meisle (Broadway's "A Touch of the Poet," "Tartuffe") as Tekla and Omar Metwally (Tony-award nominated for "Sixteen Wounded") as Adolf, yet Smith feels the story embodies many characters. His expertise in that arena includes sharing a 2007 Drama Desk award for the 3-actor, 50-character play "Lebensraum."
"My character, Gustav, is a little duplicitous," Smith said. "At first I thought he was running on three different tracts. Then I discovered there's a hidden motive, and then a deeper motive than that. He actually has 12 different tracts in the play. I think Doug's adaptation is less an update and more a rediscovery of the original piece. He's removed layers of old social attitudes, yet still explores the games people play and their terrible misunderstandings, and has given us something that's extremely tender and passionate."
Smith believes each patron who sees the play will walk out of the theater a different person. "The audience can look at this play with recognition. That's one of the joys of art, that you look at it and say, I understand, and I'm seeing parts of myself up there that I'm not comfortable seeing. Because they might see some reflection of themselves; it's both stimulating and provocative but also inspiring."
When: Sept. 29 – Oct. 25
Where: Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse
Times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $30 –$65, (858) 550-1010 or www.lajollaplayhouse.org.