Volume 76, Number 1 | May 24 - 30, 2006

Downtown theater’s new blood

By Sara G. Levin

While devouring sushi on a recent Thursday evening, Sophia Holman and Patrick Young, both 23, mused over the NY theater scene, why Tarzan the musical could have been cool, and what it’s like to be debuting an original play just one year out of Columbia. The precocious Downtowners are premiering a co-authored, Japanese-themed play this Sunday May 28th at the Bowery Poetry Club called “Love/Suicide,” based on a 1928 novel and an 18th century puppet show from Japan. For this director from Toronto (Young) and actress from Tribeca (Holman), dysfunctional love stories—no matter how old their storytellers—always ring true.

Are you nervous about “Love/Suicide” being your professional debut?

Patrick (who’s wearing two shades of clashing plaid): Yes, I am. Just because, you know it’s the first thing that I’ve done, and I do feel like we’ve taken a lot of risks, like writing it ourselves.

One of the texts you use is an 18th century puppet show (“The Love Suicides at Amijima.”) Will you be using real puppets?

P: No, … I love puppets, but I’m not a puppeteer so I don’t really know how to use them.

But Sophia, you were in a puppet show recently, right?

Sophia: Yes, the last thing I did was a regional tour of a Kentucky Opera-commissioned puppet opera, directed by Amy Trompetter, of the Oscar Wilde short story “Happy Prince.” We workshopped it here at the Kitchen.

A lot of theater now is very political and “Love/Suicide” doesn’t seem to be so. Is that a conscious choice?

P: I think that all art is political, but what tends to happen, particularly in a time like this with a lot of social unrest, is you get a lot of political plays with a capital “P.” The big hit at the Public right now (where Patrick works) is David Hare’s ‘Stuff Happens,’ which is about the lead-up to the Iraq War. And even the Public’s summer season is about war—‘Mother Courage’ and ‘Macbeth’. I feel like every play I see these days is about the war.

It’s more basic in “Some Prefer Nettles” (the novel their show is based on): a man and a wife and how do they relate to each other. Because it’s supposed to be a very intimate relationship, and in our play, it’s not. It’s very dissonant.

How about the fact that you are doing a show about marriage and neither of you have been married before?

S: I think it’s about the bottom-line human experience. I just don’t think you can ever be wrong. You know there’s going to be somebody out there who says, ‘Yes, that’s what marriage is, that’s what divorce is, yes they’re totally right!’ And there’s gonna be somebody out there who’s gonna be like, ‘Those [expletive] 20-somethings have no idea what they’re talking about!’

What do you like or dislike about other shows out now?

P: This is what’s been bothering me recently — you (to Sophia) said something earlier about how plays are just movies on stage. And I feel like, especially commercial theater, that’s a lot of what it is. Movies on stage… You know ‘Doubt’ is like that.

S: I think there’s a lot of really fatty stuff. Stuff that seems like it’s so overgrown… like Tarzan. It’s got so much potential to be cool. I mean people are swinging across the stage! What really interests me right now is funky, living theater. Like I saw a Mabou Mines show called Red Beads. They had people flying. They had people climbing through the air and in harness flipping around. They touched on those iconic images that resonate with everyone, and yet at the same time, you sense the piece growing and changing.

How would you sum up your show in one sentence?

S: I would say it’s about where people have to go when they’ve gone great lengths to deny what they really want. It’s the place where people end up when they deny what they really want.

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