A Connecticut native’s timely new play which in its London premiere in 2008 eerily predated the current controversy over the depiction of the Islamic faith in a film trailer on the internet is on its way to enjoying its American premiere at Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company later this month.
Wethersfield native Christopher Shinn was commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre in London to write the play, “Now or Later,” following the success of many of his previous works which had premiered at the Royal Court. In another Connecticut connection, the play is being directed by Michael Wilson, who stepped down last year as the Artistic Director of the Hartford Stage Company after 12 years at the helm. Wilson lived in Hartford throughout that time and was a popular figure on the arts scene in the community.
“Now or Later,” which will run from October 12 through November 10 in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA), 527 Tremont Street in Boston, coincides with the current Presidential campaign, since just such a campaign factors significantly in the plot. The play takes place in a hotel room on election night as the results are being tabulated, when photos of the gay son of the leading candidate appear across the internet, showing the son dressed as the prophet Muhammed and a friend dressed as a controversial right wing cleric. The members of the candidate’s team, the candidate’s wife and ultimately the candidate himself get involved in confrontations with the son as the evening progresses.
Following the play’s premiere four years ago, The Times of London called it “riveting, urgent and unmissable.” The Telegraph called it “the play we have been waiting for–a gripping, daring work that examines the Western response to Islamic fundamentalism and the consequent threat to freedom of speech.”
According to the playwright himself, ” ‘Now or Later’ was written at a very specific time, both for the world and in my life, and returning to it four years later is fascinating for me. On the political level, seeing what has changed–both substantially and superficially–has strengthened my sense of what’s timeless about the play’s questions (and lack of answers). On the personal level, the characters’ yearnings and maneuverings feel even murkier to me. To revisit the play is to face what I believed then, what I believe now, and what I suspect I might believe in the future.”
“I am so thrilled to be directing Chris’s play at this moment,” says director Wilson, “as it directly explores how Americans defend a core principle–freedom of expression–in the face of violence sparked by the mockery of another society’s faith. I am profoundly struck by the recent tragic events in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen sparked by the ridicule of Muhammad. The incendiary event of this play is perceived similarly, only in this case the perpetrator is the son of the President-elect. Chris’s play puts these events into a fuller context, affording our audience the opportunity to explore more fully what is at stake in these complex clashes of culture, government, and faith.”
The Huntington’s Artistic Director Peter DuBois adds that “experiencing ‘Now or Later’ at the height of the election season adds an extra twist to this provocative tale of political fiction. I’m proud that we are producing the US debut of this play that was such a success at London’s Royal Court and that we’re introducing Huntington audiences to the fine work of Christopher Shinn and Michael Wilson.”
Shinn, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, is the author of a number of works including “Dying City,” “Four,” “What Didn’t Happen” and “Picked” (the latter two directed by Wilson in their New York premieres). His adaptation of “Hedda Gabler” appeared on Broadway in 2009. A film version of his play, “Four,” premiered this summer on the festival circuit around the country. His mother continues to reside in Wethersfield.
Wilson’s Broadway credits include the recent Tony-nominated production of “The Best Man,” “Dividing the Estate,” “Old Acquaintance” and “Enchanted April.” While at Hartford Stage, he commissioned and directed the three-play, nine hour version of Horton Foote’s epic “The Orphans’ Home Cycle,” which he subsequently directed in its New York premiere. He also commissioned and helped to develop the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner, Quiara Alegria Hudes’s “Water by the Spoonful,” which will receive its New York premiere later this year.
For tickets, contact the Huntington box office at 617.266.0800, visit the box office at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue or the BCA Box Office, or go online at huntingtontheatre.org.