Guild Hall Presents a Weekend of ‘Plays in the Backyard’

Indoor theatergoing is still a thing of the past and the distant future, but Guild Hall in East Hampton is undaunted.

The performing arts center, located at 158 Main Street, is inaugurating its John Drew Backyard Theater (JDBT), a space in the Furman Garden behind the theater that allows for socially-distanced outdoor performances, with a week-long series of “Plays in the Backyard,” beginning Thursday evening, Aug. 20. 

“Experiencing the joy of live performance is fundamental to the emotional and spiritual well-being of artists and audiences alike. I’m proud that we’ll regain some ground here, right in our own backyard – a beachhead in the ongoing battle against this rotten plague – and that we’ll light our lamps again and invite people to return to Guild Hall,” says the theater’s artistic director, Josh Gladstone. “Consummate artists like Laurie Anderson, Mercedes Ruehl, GE Smith, Harris Yulin and more – our friends and neighbors – rally to the call with more surprises being added to our Backyard Theater’s schedule regularly.”

The first play of the session, on Thursday, Aug. 20 at 8 p.m., is “tenderly” by Ida Esmaeili, “a deeply heartfelt, sharply funny new play starring Ida Esmaeili and Nate Janis and irected by Rebecca Miller Kratzer. 

When Will’s professor leads him to seek out Alina’s insight for his paper on Iran, he has no idea that he will meet the love of his life. However, Alina’s visa renewal gets denied early in their relationship and they have life-changing choices to make. Emerging playwright Ida Esmaeili’s deeply sincere, sharply funny new play examines whether marriage can be tainted, how immigration considerations can alter the course of families and relationships, and raises questions about the nature of identity and home.

On Friday, Aug. 21 at 8 p.m., the theater presents a Alexis Lloyd’s dramatization of Albert Camus’ “The Fall” starring Ronald Guttman.

“You can never really prove anybody’s innocence, but you can be sure we’re all guilty. Every man bears witness to the crimes of all the others.” says Jean-Baptiste Clamence, the anguished, exiled Parisian lawyer at the heart of “The Fall.”

In Alexis Lloyd’s solo theatrical adaptation of Nobel Prize-winning French author Albert Camus’ The Fall, New York-based, Belgian-born actor Ronald Guttman takes on the role of Jean-Baptiste Clamence, transporting his audience to the last circle of Hell: Amsterdam’s red-light district, circa 1956. 

Related in casual conversation to an unexpected interlocutor and set against the backdrop of the Second World War, this adaptation of Camus’ last complete work of fiction invokes the fall of man from the Garden of Eden as it explores themes of culpability, shame and regret.

Escaping the crowded streets awash in neon light at a bar called Mexico City, Clamence reveals, in the form of a 60-minute monologue, the outcome of an event whose moral uncertainty has transformed him into a judge-repentant and postmodern prophet of the human condition.  

In this quiet and elegant presentation, the audience become his confessors, his mirror, and Clamence becomes theirs. 

On Saturday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. , the theater presents “The Gin Game” by D.L. Coburn, starring Mercedes Ruehl and Harris Yulin.

This winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which originally starred Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn and was later revived with Julie Harris and Charles Durning, uses a card game as a metaphor for life.

Weller Martin is playing solitaire on the porch of a seedy nursing home. Enter Fonsia Dorsey, a prim, self-righteous lady. They discover they both dislike the home and enjoy gin rummy, so they begin to play and to reveal intimate details of their lives. Fonsia wins every time, and their secrets become weapons used against one another.  

“Perfect … A vibrant study on loneliness, disillusion, old age and death yet fiercely funny,” says The Boston Globe of the play.

“A thoroughly entertaining lesson in the fine art of theatrical finesse. The closest thing the theatre offers to a duel at 10 paces.” says The New York Times.

The series concludes on Sunday, Aug. 23 at 8 p.m with “Heisenberg” by Simon Stephens, directed by Austin Pendleton and starring Irene Glezos and Albert Insinnia.

 Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train station, Georgie spots Alex, a much older man, and plants a kiss on his neck. This electric encounter thrusts these two strangers into a fascinating and life-changing game.

Tony Award winning playwright Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) presents a refreshing look into just how unpredictable life can be, especially when examined closely.

Directed by Tony Award-nominated and Drama Desk Award winner Austin Pendleton, this staged reading stars Broadway and TV veteran actors Irene Glezos and Albert Insinnia.

Tickets to each show are $50 per lawn circle (seats one or two) and are available at guildhall.org.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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