MESQUITE, NV to Parody Angry American Politics at Workshop Theater
Based on actual events, "Mesquite, NV" by Leegrid Stevens is a dark comedy about power and politics that is one part Coen Brothers and one part Preston Sturgis.
It's set in the retirement community of Mesquite, Nevada and dramatizes a contentious municipal election. The campaign turns nasty as complaints of sweetheart deals and fraudulent travel vouchers are leaked to the local press.
Accusations quickly divide the town, leading to complete political upheaval, the downfall of both candidates and the hasty installation of "outsiders" to replace them. The play reflects truths of the American political pathology with such humor that we can chuckle at ourselves while we shudder at them.
The Workshop Theater, 312 West 36th Street, will present the world premiere of the piece October 5 to 28, directed by Thomas Coté.
The play is loosely based on the actual case of an acrimonious 2011 mayoral campaign in Mesquite, Nevada between the incumbent mayor and her challenger, a popular city councilwoman. In an effort to discredit her opponent, the mayor accused the challenger of stealing $90 through the fraudulent submission of an expense report. This accusation immediately infuriated a populace economically devastated by the 2008 crash and recession. Local press outlets, blogs and chat rooms exploded with calls for resignation and prosecution as well as increasingly vulgar insults online. This led to the shocking and baffling murder suicide of the city councilwoman and her husband. Their deaths upended the election and caused the resignations and firings of several major players in the city.
Stevens' play is a character study of small-town America, combining desperate characters (as in "Fargo") with funny flunkies and nitwits (as in the screenplays of Preston Sturgis). Everybody knows everybody in Mesquite. Disputes at bake sales can quickly turn into altercations over who was at fault for the mayor's divorce.
Stevens initially discovered the 2011 Mesquite fracas through a CNN report and followed up by interviewing people who had been on the City Council at the time. He wrote the play over the last year and a half, "as a reaction to the heated political rhetoric of this country before Donald Trump reared his head." The play offers unique perspective on the function of anger in American politics. Mesquite had been devastated by the national mortgage crisis, creating a sense of ire and helplessness that attached itself to tinderpoint issues. Stevens says, "All the arguments were personal. The city had no left or right wing, exactly, just a constant search for blame. Everyone felt under attack." He wanted the play to show the style of contemporary American politics -- how you have to be outraged about either side. "People can't abide a lack of outrage nowadays," he declares, "no matter how small the issue. Bake sales, a $90 dollar voucher, a municipal election. The big issue is actually just the outrage." This play puts a small town's outrage under a microscope. The characters all use it and leverage it to their advantage until the outrage spirals out of control.
The play was expressly written for the Workshop Theater company. The actors are Liz Amberly, Joe Burby, Jed Dickson, Alex Dmitriev, Michael Gnat, Jackie Jenkins, Robert Meksin, Jeff Paul and Jill Melanie Wirth. Lighting design is by Diana Duecker. Set design is by Jennifer Varbalow. Costume design is by Anthony Paul-Cavaretta.
IF YOU GO:
Presented by The Workshop Theater (Thomas Coté, Artistic Director; Dana Leslie Goldstein, Managing Director)
October 5 to 28, 2017
At The Workshop Theater, 312 West 36th Street, 4 fl. East
Thursdays & Fridays at 7:00 PM, Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM.
$25 general admission, $18 students and seniors.
Group sales: firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-695-4173 (Kevin Stanfa at The Workshop Theater).
Running time: 2 hours (with intermission). Critics are invited on or after October 5.
Playwright Leegrid Stevens grew up in Spicewood, Texas and earned an MFA from Columbia's School of the Arts. His plays have been developed by the Lark Theatre, Spring Theatreworks, Incubator Arts Project, HERE, LMCC's Swing Space, Theatre for the New City, Tutto Theatre in Austin and several others. His published scripts include "Post-Oedipus", "Sun Stand Thou Still", "The Twelfth Labor" and "Lovers in the Park." His "Spaceman" (Incubator Arts, Wild Project) was nominated for two NY Innovative theatre awards and his "The Dudleys", which debuted in Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival and was remounted at HERE last fall, received several B. Iden Payne awards for a production in Austin, TX. Stevens is a recipient of the Alec Baldwin Playwright Fellowship at the Singer's Forum and the John Golden Playwriting award at Columbia University. He was named one of the "People of the year" by Nytheatre.com.
Thomas Coté is a Manhattan-based director and the current Artistic Director of The Workshop Theater. He previously directed its productions of "The Jazz Age," "The Last Seder" and "The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit," all by Allan Knee. Other New York credits include the Off-Broadway production of "The Devil and Billy Markham" by Shel Silverstein, "Interchange" by Ken Jaworowski (a New York Times Critics' Pick) and Audelco Award-winning "The Guest at Central Park West" by Levy Lee Simon. Regionally, his directing credits include "The Woman In Black" for Millbrook Theater, "National Pastime" by Tony Sportiello for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and "Man of La Mancha" and "The Game's Afoot" for the Gretna Theatre.