HEROES OF THE FOURTH TURNING Extends Again, Through November 17
Playwrights Horizons (Artistic Director Tim Sanford, Managing Director Leslie Marcus), responding to critical acclaim and popular demand, announces a one-week extension of the already extended world premiere production of Heroes of the Fourth Turning. The play, written by Will Arbery (Plano, Evanston Salt Costs Climbing) and directed by Danya Taymor ("Daddy," Pass Over) will now run through November 17 (twice extended from the initial closing date of October 27) at the Mainstage Theater at Playwrights Horizons (416 W 42nd St).
In Heroes of the Fourth Turning, four young conservatives have gathered at a backyard after-party in rural Wyoming. One week following the Charlottesville riot, and two days before the 2017 solar eclipse, they've returned home to toast their mentor Gina, newly inducted as the first female president of a tiny Catholic college. But as their reunion spirals into spiritual chaos and clashing generational politics, it becomes less a celebration than a vicious fight to be understood. Will Arbery's haunting play offers disarming clarity, speaking to the heart of a country at war with itself.
Heroes of the Fourth Turning has been praised by a wide range of critics and journalists. Jesse Green in a New York Times Critic's Pick review as "astonishing" and "riveting...directed with nerves of steel by Danya Taymor," whose "uncompromising production makes the strongest possible case" for "the dramatic potential of debate." In New York Magazine, Sara Holdren writes that in his "stunning play...Arbery works like both poet and scientist. Heroes seems to be deep in conversation with that model of doctor-writers, Chekhov...The play is a kind of darkly warped, contemporary American Cherry Orchard." In The New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham calls Heroes "a formally lovely, subtly horrifying play about the thin line between devotion of delusion. Much of the thrill comes in hearing ultraconservative ideas - scarce on New York stages - discussed in earnest. Nothing in this richly allusive play is exactly as it seems at first glance. You've got to distinguish dark from dark, and perceive a thousand darknesses in between."
Helen Shaw, in a five-star review in Time Out New York, writes that "Will Arbery's plays are important explorations of language," noting that in Heroes his message "becomes clearer, truer and darker... showing us how language, even at its most beautiful, can destabilize a mind, a backyard, the world." In The American Conservative, Rod Dreher says, "Will Arbery's breathtaking new play Heroes of the Fourth Turning [offers] profound insight. I kept thinking: this really can't be this good, can it? It is." C C Pecknold, in The Catholic Herald, says, "The play is remarkable for managing to make progressives and conservatives think about the parts we are playing in history...[it] asks the audience to break into a bigger conversation."
Heroes of the Fourth Turning features Jeb Kreager (Broadway: Oslo; TV: "The Punisher," "One Dollar") as Justin, Julia McDermott (International: Epiphany; Regional: Hay Fever, The Cherry Orchard) as Emily, Michele Pawk (Playwrights: A Small Fire, Prayer for My Enemy; Broadway: Beautiful, Hairspray) as Gina, Zoë Winters (Off-Broadway: White Noise, Small Mouth Sounds, Red Speedo, An Octoroon) as Teresa, and John Zdrojeski (Off-Broadway: Monster; Regional: Romeo and Juliet; TV: "Billions") as Kevin. The creative team includes Laura Jellinek (Scenic Designer), Sarafina Bush (Costume Designer), Isabella Byrd (Lighting Designer), Justin Ellington (Sound Designer), J. David Brimmer (Fight Director), and Jenny Kennedy (Stage Manager).
Will Arbery is particularly familiar with the palpable divide between American ideological realms. He grew up in a family of conservative Catholic professors, living in the midst of small Catholic colleges, but as an adult underwent the "long journey" away from the views he was given. "I feel I've had this play in me from the time I was born," he says. His writing process for Heroes of the Fourth Turning came both from personal recollection and-now removed from that world-meticulous research into what, he explains "was supposed to have been [his] inheritance."
He says, "The provocation of the play is that it needs to be an accurate representation of the conversations that conservatives might have when liberals aren't present. I was witness to conversations like the ones in the play over and over again from the time I was a child. Really passionate, really religious, really smart conservative people hashing it out late into the night, drinking and smoking. I haven't shared much of my work with my parents, but I went back to Wyoming in March and showed them the play; this was the first where I told them, 'I would like you to read this.' It was really fascinating: they'd been worried about my soul and my debt and my rocky path in New York, like parents worried about their son, but they were sort of taken aback by how closely I'd been listening to their work. I think it both moved them and unsettled them. They had some suggestions for how to go deeper and make it even more accurate. That was really helpful. I don't want the play to feel like propaganda for conservatism, far from it, but I do need the representation to be correct. However, the play makes my parents feel, they can't watch it and say 'this is incorrect.'"
Says Taymor, "This play is so much about how education can arm people. These characters have all learned how to form their thoughts together, and it's how they think that we're looking to expose with as much blinding clarity as we can. What we're trying to do for the audience is reveal an underbelly, this hidden thing that does exist, and the transgression of the play is that it doesn't tell the audience what to feel or think about what they've experienced, to let them wrestle with the beast on their own."
Will Arbery is the 2019/20 Tow Playwright-in-Residence at Playwrights Horizons. The Tow Foundation, established in 1988 by Leonard and Claire Tow, funds projects that offer transformative experiences to individuals and create collaborative ventures in fields where they see opportunities for breakthroughs, reform, and benefits for underserved populations. Investments focus on the support of innovative programs and system reform in the fields of juvenile and criminal justice, medicine, higher education, and culture. For more information, visit http://www.towfoundation.org.