ESP Stages WHEN WE ARE MARRIED by J. B. Priestley Today
J. B. Priestley's 1938 farcical comedy, set in 1908, is about three couples who married on the same day in the same church, who learn on their twenty-fifth anniversaries that they aren't legally married at all, sending them into a tizzy of spousal re-evaluation. The play is full of funny lines, and is a first-rate screwball comedy - but this hilarious Yorkshire farce has more going on in it than this premise would indicate, because, after all, this is a play by J. B. Priestley!
John Boynton Priestley (1894-1984) was an author adept in many genres, and a major figure in British intellectual life. He began as a freelance essayist, then shifted to fiction (Angel Pavement, Bright Day, and Lost Empires are among his novels); but after becoming involved in a dramatic adaptation of his novel The Good Companions, he also became a devoted and audacious playwright. None of his plays are alike, except for the displays of Priestley's wit and humanity.
But Priestley's name and work have lapsed into a certain obscurity, particularly in the United States; he was never the glittery Noël Coward type, and his plays are generally concerned with regular people - though they are, of course, no less funny or moving for that. His work has more in common with Thornton Wilder and Alan Ayckbourn.
Locally, in 1987, the Bathhouse Theatre Company produced the experimental Johnson Over Jordan, and Taproot produced the brilliant An Inspector Calls in 2006. His 1935 tragic comedy about business, the still topical Cornelius, had limited runs in London and New York last year (and is on ESP's short list for an upcoming reading, along with Time and the Conways).
When We Are Married, last seen in this area in a full production at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1992, is an example of the so-called 'well-made play'. The events occur in the space of a single evening, and in a single room. Though its plot device has been borrowed by several movies and TV sitcom episodes, and though its middle-class characters' pretensions are juicily comic, there is a serious theme under all of the shenanigans: the theatre of couplehood. Who are we, exactly, outside the roles we accept when we marry? But no matter the theme, the play is flat-out funny, and a classic of its kind!
ESP's reading, directed by Mark Anders, will feature Seattle favorites E. Ray Anderson, Christine Marie Brown, Karen Kay Cody, Gemma Kay Cody-Anders, Randy Hoffmeyer, Bobbi Kotula, Leslie Law, Angie Louise, Cobey Mandarino, Marty Mukhalian, and Richard Ziman, among others.
The reading will take place at 7 p.m. today, December 9 at the Stage One Theatre at North Seattle Community College - see below for directions! Doors will open at 6:30.
(And, P.S.: In January we will offer John Van Druten's groundbreaking adaptation of tales by Christopher Isherwood, I Am a CameraEARLY WARNING: the January reading will occur on the first Monday of the month; we are shifting to first Mondays in 2014.)
THIS MONTH'S VENUE: Once again we are the guests of Stage One Theater at the North Seattle Community College. The North Seattle Community College venue is called Stage 1, and it's in the Library building on the campus (the official address of which is 9600 College Way N (98103), should you want to Mapquest or Google Map it.) The college is West of I-5 (and Northgate Mall).
ESP is a confederation of Seattle theatre artists dedicated to presenting plays that seldom get full productions. In the present economic straits in which regional theatre now finds itself, much of the so-called established international repertoire is neglected, for various reasons: there are too many different settings, or the casts are too large, or, simply, the publicity requirements of selling a play that is both "old" and unfamiliar to general audiences may seem too daunting.
We feel that while it is an essential duty of theatres to develop new work, our group sees a parallel need to celebrate older or otherwise neglected plays, and to explore the genius of playwrights such as Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, Harold Brighouse, Zona Gale, Arthur Wing Pinero, and so many more.
Through our simply staged presentations, we hope to lend live voices to plays that are now silent on our bookshelves. For more about us and previous shows, visit us on the web: ESP Website.