Wallace Shawn is perhaps best known to more casual arts patrons for his roles as Vizzini in The Princess Bride and Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine.
But he’s a prolific playwright as well, and among his better-known early works is the play Marie and Bruce, written in 1978.
“People expect Vizzini from this, but it’s not that at all,” says Sheila Lynne, who directs this weekend’s Drama Bums/ Savannah Actor’s Theatre production. “He did that all that well after he did this. It was originally performed in a very small space in London, almost like a living room.”
Which makes this intimate, scalding look at a day in the life of a relationship gone awry a good match for the newly opened Ark Theatre on Louisville Road, where Lynne brings the show this weekend and the following.
“It’s very deep. It’s really funny and really stark at the same time. We’ve torn it apart in many different ways, which makes it even more fascinating,” she says.
“We’ve heard it’s about his parents, and then we thought maybe it was about him, since it seems to be about a writer and an actress. He didn’t give a lot of clues.”
Local theatre connoisseurs will remember Lynne from a recent production of Ti Jean Blues at the Sentient Bean and Cafe Mucha. They also might be familiar with her abortive effort to stage The Good Body, a play about women’s body image by Eve Ensler, writer of the Vagina Monologues.
However, that production was not able to go on due to the threat of legal action from the playwright.
“Her lawyers called us and said, no you can’t do this. So despite what we were trying to do for women and for theatre, it left a bad taste in my mouth.”
When Lynne made another go of it with Marie and Bruce, she says the decision pretty much made itself.
“I didn’t think about the content or the subject matter -- I just wanted to push it and see if I could make it happen. I was challenging myself and the community -- are you open to alternative types of theatre?”
Auditions for Marie and Bruce originally didn’t go swimmingly -- “the first day of auditions no one came,” she says.
She eventually found the right actor, Ryan Brown, to play Bruce -- “he was up on a ladder at Savannah Actor’s Theatre, and I sort of knew him from SCAD. So I walked up to him and said, ‘Hey, Ryan, do you want to audition?’”
Keri Szymanski plays Marie; additional cast members include Stephen Cyr, Janson Lalich, Valerie Lavalle, Adam Scarborough Nelson and Sasha Travis.
Lynne, a comparatively recent arrival to Savannah, came to town eager to make her mark on the local scene -- but found the scene somewhat underwhelming.
“I decided to just wreck everything and leave your life behind and do something adventurous and new,” she says.
“I was hoping to find a thriving theatre community here, and didn’t. SCAD is primarily students, Savannah Theatre is primarily professional and City Lights was kind of petering out,” says Lynne.
“So in 2005 I was just going crazy, and finally decided to get some friends together and say, ‘Let’s do this.’” ç
Marie and Bruce will be performed Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 7-9 and Sept. 14-16 at 8 p.m. at The Ark Theatre (703D Louisville Rd). Admission is $10.
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