The oldest city in West Virginia – celebrating its
250th birthday – was the site for announcing the newest plays as CATF unveiled its 22nd season last night at the venerable Shepherdstown Opera House. The line-up, introduced
by Founder and Producing Director Ed Herendeen, includes an assortment of psychological thrillers “where smart people
make bad choices,” topical themes, and at least one comedy related to “competitive parenting.”
Receiving their world premieres are Gideon’s
Knot, by Joanna Adams, and Barcelona, by Bess Wohl. Ms. Adams, who is a finalist for the
2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (to be announced 2/28), has written a play about a parent-teacher conference where a child’s actions are contested
and issues of “censorship, artistic freedom, and responsibility” intertwine in a dark and disturbing way.
Ms. Wohl’s work is a cross-cultural morality tale that starts out sexy-funny, “then turns on a dime.”
In addition to her theater credits, the actor-turned director has an extensive CV which includes
work on screenplays and television.
second productions are two recently premiered works: Evan A. Wiener’s Captors and The
Exceptionals, by Bob Clyman. The Captors, an adaptation of the book Eichmann in
My Hands, by Peter Z. Malkin and Harry Stein, is based on the true story of the capture of the architect of the Holocaust
in Buenos Aires in 1960 by members of the Israeli Mossad. Mr. Weiner will continue to do work on the play,
coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Adolph Eichmann’s execution. Set in the near future,
Mr. Clyman’s The Exceptionals examines “what you are willing to do” for your children, especially
if they have been selected from a fertility clinic’s Primo Sperm, in the hopes of raising a super baby. Mr.
Clyman is also a clinical psychologist so it will be interesting to view today’s parenting issues through his unique
The festival showstopper is sure to be In
a Forest, Dark and Deep, by Neil LaBute, a writer whose work is well known to, and admired by, area audiences.
Described as a Hansel and Gretel tale for adults, a brother and sister confront some extremely dark issues "in
a psychological thriller that bursts with savage conflict," though Mr. LaBute considers it a love story of sorts.
The sister, a successful dean, engaged in a pattern of “deception and lying,” confronts a brother
who has an “excellent B/S detector,” which might stand as a testament to the playwright’s own skills. Mr.
LaBute will be in residence during the production, which should make for some lively interactions!
Along with a 5-play repertory, from 7/6-29/2012, the festival will
host a wide selection of free programming, as explained by Peggy McGowan, Associate Producing Director, including lectures,
staged readings, panels, and discussions with artists. For those who want a more in-depth look at the process,
there will be an opportunity to purchase tickets for various audience “immersion” events.
Building on the recent success of Farragut North, by Beau Willimon (2009), a screening
of a The Ides of March concluded the program, preceded by a short staged reading of the opening scene by local actors. The
movie is up for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, come Sunday night.
CATF has launched, or had a hand in developing, Lydia Diamond’s Stick Fly
(2008), now on Broadway, as well as Lidless by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig (2010), running Off-Broadway. Jeffrey
Hatcher’s movie Stage Beauty was based on an entry at the 1999 Festival. Come see what is
in the pipeline for future audiences and help shape those works in the process!
© John F. Glass, February 24, 2012