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US Premiere of WHAT IF ONLY Extended


"What If If Only is harrowing from nearly the first instant, as a woman begs her late husband, who may have committed suicide, to make contact from beyond.

US Premiere of WHAT IF ONLY Extended

Mia Katigbak, co-founder and actor-manager of NAATCO, today announced that NAATCO will extend on demand performances of the US Premiere of a new play by Caryl Churchill, What If If Only, realized by Les Waters and Jared Mezzocchi. The performances will be available through Sunday June 20th only.

"What If If Only is harrowing from nearly the first instant, as a woman begs her late husband, who may have committed suicide, to make contact from beyond. 'Are you not trying?' she cries. 'If you'd wanted to talk to me you could have stayed alive.' Soon the husband does appear, as the wisp of a ghost that could become real, he says, if only his wife would make him 'possible.' Merging Churchill's frequent themes of dread (Escaped Alone, Far Away) and duplication (A Number, Love and Information), What If If Only dismisses its speculative worlds as quickly as it creates them. The wife's despair, tearing a hole in space-time, soon releases a multiplicity of possible versions of her husband, had he lived, crowding out the 'real' one. Even when she shoos them away in terror, one remains stuck in her hair. 'Just brush with your fingers,' her husband says gently. 'All gone.' I call the main characters "she" and "her husband" because the livestreamed production, perfectly and creepily "realized" by the stage director Les Waters and the theater tech guru Jared Mezzocchi, casts the roles to suggest that the mourner is a woman (Mia Katigbak, superb as always) and the ghost is a man (Bernard White). But the play's horror, which in Churchill is never just cosmological but also spiritual, comes from the combination of its radical relevance to any human and its freakish compression, in which 14 minutes becomes a literal deadline. The extreme brevity - typical one-acts more often last an hour or longer - serves as a tool, like a socket wrench, to make clear that grief is unbearable, even in small doses," wrote Jesse Green in The New York Times, June 16th, 2021.

Ms Katigbak says that the play is a gift from Les Waters who brought the play to her after asking Caryl Churchill to allow NAATCO to present it with an all-Asian American cast. "Ms. Churchill, once again, has brilliantly written a short play that contains harrowing insights, big heartbreaks, oceans of loneliness and grief, stillness and transmutation. Not knowing when we could go back to live theatre again, I thought Les and Jared Mezzocchi, with whom I worked on Russian Troll Farm, would make a perfect partnership to bring this incredible play to fruition."

Les Waters spoke of the opportunity to work with NAATCO after last year's project with the company, two Pinter one-acts he was to have directed, was cancelled due to the pandemic: "With every play, Caryl reinvents the question: what is a play? This play asks us what do we do when our loved one/partner dies? What could we have done that's different? What if What if What if. This is my opportunity to work with Caryl again. It's been 25 years since we did The Skriker at The National Theatre. It is my opportunity to work with Jared and all the great artists at NAATCO."

Jared Mezzocchi adds: "This text is such a robust landscape of the mind that it lends itself so incredibly to this form and I'm inspired to witness it unlocking new universes for the virtual performance space. To share this rehearsal room with Les and the incredible team of artists through NAATCO, is truly a dream come true. I'm excited to grow as an artist and an experimenter with such a virtuosic team, unpacking a meticulously written piece of dream text."

What If If Only features Paul Juhn (NAATCO's Henry VI, Richard II - Classic Stage Company/Oregon Shakespeare, Good Person of Szechwan - Foundry Theatre/Public Theater, Takarazuka!!! - Clubbed Thumb), Mia Katigbak (2019 Drama Desk Award winner; most recently: Russian Troll Farm, Human Resources - world premieres; The Headlands - LCT3, The Plot - Yale Rep, A Doll's House, Part 2 - Long Wharf Theatre), Kylie Kuioka (Meet Me In St. Louis - Irish Rep, The King and I - National Tour), Jon Norman Schneider (Vietgone - Alley Theatre, A Christmas Carol - McCarter Theatre, NAATCO's Henry VI, The Oldest Boy - Lincoln Center Theater), and Bernard White (Nassim - Barrow Street Theatre, The Tempest - Public Theater, The Who & The What - LCT3, Blood and Gifts - Lincoln Center Theater). Alyssa K. Howard will be production stage manager; Jonathan Castanien will be assistant stage manager.

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