Evidence Room, up-to-the-minute political topicality, and New York playwright Kelly Stuart seem to have a serendipitous connection. In March 2003, just as the United States launched the war against Iraq, Evidence Room was presenting Stuart's play, Mayhem, a domestic comedy set against the specter of Taliban terrorism. It had been scheduled for that season slot several months earlier. Flash-forward to late summer 2004, as another Stuart work prepares to premiere at Evidence Room. Describing Homewrecker as a "farce/satire," director Bart DeLorenzo says this prolific playwright has once again fashioned a battle-of-the-sexes story juxtaposed against timely political events. This time Stuart's sardonic work is fortuitously aligned with the nation's presidential-election frenzy.
Stuart's script was workshopped in January 2003 at the Festival of Internationale Neue Dramatik at the Schaubuehne in Berlin. DeLorenzo, who met Stuart at an A.S.K. retreat several years ago, says he was familiar with the script and had stored it in the back of his mind to eventually produce at Evidence Room. "Suddenly there was this window of opportunity to schedule it, and with the election process currently occurring, the timing was perfect," DeLorenzo says. The set for the current Evidence Room staging of Three Feet Under is designed in a classic Greek style, which DeLorenzo feels is also appropriate for Homewrecker. "It seems as if all of the planets were aligning for us," he says.
The description of Homewrecker's premise evokes memories of Down South, a 2001 Off-Broadway comedy by Doug Field (which premiered in L.A.); it's about sexual tension in the Florida suburbs during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Stuart's play is set during the November 2000 U.S. presidential election, as two women who are chronic liars compare notes on a married man who is carrying on adulterous affairs with both of them. A debonair magician appears on the scene to stir things up further, and a lying George W. Bush lurks in the background, frequently interrupting the action. DeLorenzo explains that there's an archetypal "Lucy-and-Ethel" sensibility to the machinations of the women, though this piece is far from a sitcom. According to the director, those familiar with Mayhem will see a parallel dynamic with the new play: two strong comic women driving the action. It's a device Stuart will use yet again in a companion piece to Homewrecker that's currently in the works. "I have a draft," says DeLorenzo. "It seems a little more serious, though it's also very funny. Part of it takes place on 9/11 and part of it during the Iraq War."
As there were only two months between DeLorenzo's decision to mount this show and its opening date, it was especially important that he enlist veteran actors who could quickly slip into the roles. "One part was a little tricky—that of the magician," he says. "At first I was wracking my brain and couldn't think of anyone who was quite right for this. I had a long list of people in mind. You read the play and try to visualize certain actors in it. This character is British and sort of a cad, a completely self-absorbed and ironic person. Yet women are flocking all over him, even though he's pretentious and confused. I suddenly thought of Stephen Caffrey and realized right away he was perfect for this. I had met him previously and was very familiar with his work in films and TV for many years but had never worked with him. He's a wonderful actor, and he remains really engaged in theatre while continuing to work in other areas."
For the two women, DeLorenzo cast actors with whom he has previously worked: "Lauren Campedelli, who is a featured actor at the Evidence Room, won an L.A. Weekly award for her portrayal in Pentecost. And Shannon Holt, who was recently in M. Butterfly [at East West Players] and in Sex Parasite at Taper, Too, has worked with us a lot in the past. The qualities of these women fit these actors perfectly." DeLorenzo also feels he found the ideal actor for the fourth character, presidential candidate Bush: "Don Oscar Smith is a longtime company member. He's a great impersonator—hilarious in this role." DeLorenzo adds that the casting at his theatre tends to split about 50/50 between members and newcomers. "It depends on the projects," he says. "It's good to give opportunities to members, but also good to bring in new blood and work with people who might become new members. But the most important thing is to cast the role in a way that doesn't compromise the production. It has to be the right fit."
DeLorenzo believes that his loyal audience members, who are used to the surprising and audacious fare offered at Evidence Room, will find this play highly appealing. "It works in kind of a subjective reality; everything is a teeny bit exaggerated and skewed," he says. "There's an incident about halfway through that really throws it into the area of the insane. I can't spoil the surprise by telling you about it, but it's the sort of thing that when you first read the script, you say to yourself, 'I have to do this play.'"
"Homewrecker" will be presented at Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. Aug. 14-Sep. 4. $15. (213) 381-7118.