'Oblivion:' A teen's lie, a crash landing for helicopter parents
A lie that "unmoors a family" is the dramatic trigger in the play "Oblivion" that is having its world premiere at Westport Country Playhouse starting Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Playwright Carly Mensch has already received a staged reading of her script at the famed Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, but said last week that she was excited to be working with director Mark Brokaw and a dream cast on the first full production.
"I sent an email to Reg Rogers begging him to do it," Mensch said, laughing, of snaring the incredibly versatile, Tony-nominated Yale School of Drama grad for her play.
"Oblivion" is set in upscale Brooklyn, where two "progressive" parents are thrown for a loop when they find out their 16-year-old daughter is not telling them the truth about where she spent the weekend.
Mensch said the play is about the challenges of parenting in the modern world, where children seem to have more ways of keeping secrets than they did in previous generations, despite the rise of so-called "helicopter parents."
The playwright grew up in a suburb where she was jealous of the freedom that urban kids can claim in the anonymity of city life and in not having to depend on parents for transportation.
Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. Tuesday, Aug. 20-Sunday, Sept. 8, 8 p.m. $50-$30 203-227-4177, www.westportplayhouse.org.
"This is set in the world of `cool parents,' where the kids have more freedom," she said.
Mensch said she didn't want to give away too many details of what she hopes will be "a big messy, fun play. I tried to pull in a lot of things in free association."
The writer counts herself lucky to travel between the worlds of theater and television -- for the past few years she has contributed scripts to two Showtime series, "Weeds" and "Nurse Jackie."
In addition to providing a financial cushion, which makes it easier to work in non-profit theater, Mensch thinks TV has gotten so good in recent years that it feeds her creativity as a playwright. She agrees that such cable series as "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" and "Breaking Bad" have moved television into the culturally prestigious position once occupied by movies.
"I've definitely learned to love both mediums separately. (Working in TV) used to be more of a stigma, because it was thought of as not being as thoughtful (as theater and film)," she said.
"A nice thing about working for cable is that it's a six-month job," Mensch said of her duties to "Nurse Jackie" and "Weeds" before that. "I can do theater during the break."
With more TV shows shooting in New York City, writers like Mensch can stay in the center of theatrical production rather than relocate to Los Angeles.
The writer is pleased to have a "safe space" in Westport to try new things with her script for "Oblivion."
"I love to tinker with a script and tailor things for a specific person. I think the bones of the play are set, but I keep changing lines," she said of the evolution of "Oblivion" since its Chicago test run.
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OBLIVION AT PLAYHOUSE
Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. Tuesday, Aug. 20-Sunday, Sept. 8, 8 p.m. $50-$30 203-227-4177, www.westportplayhouse.org