LOS ANGELES (Aug. 17, 2016) — Ever wonder what evil lurks in the heart of suburbia? Get ready for another wild ride from The Echo Theater Company whenDustin Wills directs the world premiere of a modern-day, darkly comic revenge tragedy byMary Laws. Blueberry Toast puts the “dys” in family dysfunction beginning Sept. 17 atAtwater Village Theatre.
Every family has a dark underbelly — especially the perfect ones. Walt (Albert Dayan) and Barb (Jacqueline Wright) may seem like your typical suburban couple with a fabulous eat-in kitchen and two precocious children (Michael Sturgis as Jack andAlexandra Freeman as Jill). The scary thing is… maybe they are.
“Mary and I both grew up in the suburbs,” says Wills. “We have a deep understanding of the lasting damage that comes from the demand for perfection – for the idyllic nuclear family unit, maintaining a well manicured lawn, remembering to always smile, not daring to raise your voice in public. This might be the ‘performance of life,’ but I’d hardly call it living. It’s an unnatural and distinctly American form of socialization that causes us to stifle our primal desires, to squelch and push down our essential nature. Underneath, we’re all animals; if we don’t take the time to acknowledge that animal or take that animal on a little walk, then it may eat us alive.”
Laws was inspired to write the play after reading “Tales from Ovid” by Ted Hughes. “Growing up, I was very disappointed in all the insincerity around me,” she explains. “It was heartbreaking to discover that behind closed doors, my neighbors and friends were silently struggling with abuse, drug use and alcoholism. When I read how Ovid transformed humans into animals and stars, I wanted to write a play in which people really do behave like animals.”
Wills previously directed a workshop of Blueberry Toast at Yale School of Drama where he and Laws were graduate students together. Chicago’s Tympanic Theatre Company gave it a second workshop earlier this year.
The creative team for Blueberry Toast includes composer Scott Anthony; fight choreographer Ahmed Best; set designer Amanda Knehans; lighting designer Chris Wojcieszyn; sound designer Jeff Gardner; costume designer Kim Ngo; props designer Narges Norouzi; graphic designer Elizabeth Hale; and photographerDarrett Sanders. The production stage manager is Anna Engelsman, and Chris Fields and Jesse Cannadyproduce for The Echo Theater Company.
Mary Laws’ plays include Bird Fire Fly; Wonderful; The Drive; What A Very Pretty Pageant!; Stand (an autumn play); The Trapeze Artist; and This. Her work has been read/developed by Baylor University, Theater Masters National MFA Playwrights Festival, the American Laboratory, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Endstation Theatre Playwrights Initiative, Cherry Lane, Le Pavé d’Orsay in Paris and the Horton Foote American Playwrights Festival. She served as literary associate at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York for three years. She has mentored for the Yale/Co-Op Eugene O’Neill Playwriting Program, the Dwight/Edgewood Project in New Haven, and taught Playwriting at Wesleyan University. Mary was co-screenwriter with Nicolas Winding Refn on his film The Neon Demon which stars Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves. She currently writes for the show Preacher on AMC. Mary received a BFA, from Baylor University and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
Dustin Wills is a New York City-based theater director. Current projects include Frontieres Sans Frontieres by Phillip Howze at the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn. Dustin has worked with the Foundry Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Ars Nova, Bushwick Starr, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Berkeley Rep, Yale Rep, Berkshire Theatre Group, Lark Play Development Center, Paper Chairs and Salvage Vanguard Theatre. He has created large-scale community puppet projects with Creative Action and devised new work for the English Theatre of Rome and Teatro L’Arciliuto in Rome, Italy. He is a two-time recipient of the Princess Grace Award for Theatre, a Drama League and Boris Sagal directing fellow, former artistic director of the Yale Summer Cabaret and, for a couple of years, gave rogue tours of the Vatican. He has an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
Dedicated to producing new work, the multiple award-winning Echo Theater Company was anointed “Best Bet for Ballsy Original Plays” by the LA Weekly in its 2014 Best of L.A. issue and was a recipient of the 2016 “Kilroy Cake Drop”– one of only 13 theaters in the country to be surprised by cakes to honor the efforts they are making to produce women and trans writers. Under the leadership of founding artistic director Chris Fields, the Echo has introduced Los Angeles to playwrights such as David Lindsay-Abaire, Adam Rapp, Sarah Ruhl, Tommy Smith and Miki Johnson among others. The company is also recognized for its acting ensemble; in theLos Angeles Times, theater critic Charles McNulty wrote, “Echo Theater Company, which has cultivated a community of top flight actors, would be my go-to place in Los Angeles for symbiotic ensemble acting.” KCRW’s Anthony Byrnes stated, “It’s time to start paying attention to the Echo Theater Company… What’s made these choices pay off is the acting and casting has been superb. The company has made bold choices and backed them up.”
Blueberry Toast runs Sept. 17 through Oct. 24, with weekly performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. and additional performances on Mondays at 8 p.m. on Sept, 19, Sept. 26, Oct. 2 and Oct. 24, and on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Oct. 6 and Oct. 13. Three preview performances are set for Wed., Sept. 14; Thurs., Sept. 15; and Fri., Sept. 16, all at 8 p.m. All tickets are $30, except previews, which are pay-what-you-can. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. Recommended for mature audiences: graphic language and violence. For reservations and information, call (310) 307-3753 or go to www.EchoTheaterCompany.com.
Details for Calendar Listings
Blueberry Toast — Ever wonder what evil lurks in the heart of suburbia? Every family has a dark underbelly — especially the perfect ones. Playwright Mary Laws puts the “dys” in family dysfunction with this modern-day, darkly comic revenge tragedy.
• Written by Mary Laws
• Directed by Dustin Wills
• Starring Albert Dayan, Alexandra Freeman, Michael Sturgis and Jacqueline Wright
• Presented by The Echo Theater Company
Previews: Sept. 14, Sept. 15 and Sept. 16
Performances: Sept. 17 – Oct. 24
• Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Sept. 14 ONLY (preview)
• Thursday at 8 p.m.: Sept. 15 (preview); Oct 6; Oct. 13 ONLY
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 16 (preview); Sept. 23; Sept. 30; Oct. 7; Oct. 14; Oct. 21
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 17 (opening night); Sept. 24; Oct. 1; Oct. 7; Oct. 14; Oct. 21
• Sundays at 4 p.m.: Sept. 18; Sept. 25; Oct. 2; Oct. 8; Oct. 15; Oct. 22
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 19; Sept. 26; Oct. 2; Oct. 24 (dark Oct. 10 and Oct. 17)
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
General admission: $30
Preview performances: Pay-What-You-Can
FREE in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater
Recommended for mature audiences: graphic language and violence