Spooky Action gives playwright Sarah Ruhl's powerful play The Oldest Boy its first DC production
The Oldest Boy was the first script playwright Sarah Ruhl wrote after she had twins. At the time – her son and daughter are now nine – she had to deal with the question of separation every day.
"Every day they take a new leap and do something slightly dangerous, so you’re wrestling with your sense of wanting to protect and keep them and your sense that they need to grow and develop and become their own person,” said Sarah Ruhl in a 2014 interview for American Theatre magazine, when the play had its premiere in New York.
The Oldest Boy was inspired by this question of separation and by a story her babysitter once told Ruhl, the story of a friend whose child was recognized as a reincarnated lama. In the play, staged for the first time in DC by Spooky Action Theater, the nuclear family and the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism come into conflict when an American mother and Tibetan father learn their little son may be much, much more than he first might seem. From the family living room, Buddhist monks guide the way through story, dream, dance and ceremony to Dharamsala, India. There, in a monastery courtyard, we step beyond past, beyond the present – to be touched by the soul of The Oldest Boy.
"I have long been an admirer of Sarah Ruhl's work and feel very fortunate to work on this play about life, death, what it means to be a parent, to lose a parent, to be a child, and to gain greater enlightenment on the knowledge that our children belong not to us but to the world," says director Kathryn Chase Bryer, recipient of a 2018 Helen Hayes Award.
In the Washington DC premiere of The Oldest Boy, the cast will feature Franklin Dam, Steve Lee Matthew Marcus, Stefany Pesta, Jenna Sokolowski, Al Twanmo and Rafael Untalan. On stage, the Oldest Boy will be a puppet designed by Matthew Pauli.
"There are big ideas in this play, and exploring them with this fantastic cast and with Spooky Action's Artistic Director Richard Henrich is a wonderful opportunity," celebrates the director. "Spooky Action produces plays that explore life through a lens of magic and abstract realism, and I am happy to say that The Oldest Boy is the perfect example of this mission. This play is the perfect blend of people who are grappling with the human condition that we all recognize and identify with, but Sarah Ruhl chooses to tell her story with a sense of theatricality and magic that will thrill and delight audiences."
The production design team includes Vicki R. Davis (Set Design), David Crandall (Sound Design), Julie Cray Leong (Costume Design) and Max Doolittle (Lighting Design). Tuyet Thi Pham, who received a Helen Hayes Award for her performance in The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, will be working with Kathryn Chase Bryer as Movement Director and Music and Cultural Consultant.
THE OLDEST BOY
A Play in Three Ceremonies
by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer
Featuring Franklin Dam, Steve Lee, Matthew Marcus,
Stefany Pesta, Jenna Sokolowski*, Al Twanmo* and Rafael Untalan*
*member of Actor's Equity Association
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