Playwright Henry Murray has had a happy relationship with Pico Blvd-based Rogue Machine, the multi-award-winning stage company, founded by John Perrin Flynn. The premieres of two Murray plays took place here — Treefall (2009), selected as one of the 10 best plays of the year by Steven Leigh Morris of LA Weekly, and Monkey Adored (2011).Â His third Rogue collaboration, Three Views of the Same Object. makes its West Coast debut at Rogue this Saturday, directed by Flynn, co-staged by Hollace Starr and Brett Aune. This trio replaces previously announced award-winning film/stage director David Anspaugh, who left the production last week.
“There is kind of an interesting story behind all this,” Murray affirms. “I am a playwright-in-residence at Rogue, and through 2011 I was developing Three Views with the plan to have the world premiere of the play produced at the Rogue this year. Well, along the way I submitted the script for a Woodward/Newman Award.Â It won and that kind of changed things.”
It certainly did. The Woodward/Newman Award is attached to a premiere staging of the winning work at the Woodward/Newman host company, The Bloomington Playwrights Project in Bloomington, Indiana. This took place last April 6-21, directed by Dina Epshteyn.Â “David Anspaugh was supposed to direct the production at Bloomington Playwrights Project, but he had a scheduling conflict and had to step down,” says Murray.Â “But when John put it on the Rogue schedule and David was available, I was delighted that he would be able to do it.”
Let’s now harken back to an intriguing quote from an article Murray wrote for LA STAGE Times in 2010: “If the director and playwright don’t see the same thing, then the playwright needs to use this new clarity to rewrite, and the director needs to use this new clarity to adjust his or her vision — or they both need to realize this isn’t a good partnership. The sooner the better.”
“I guess that is fairly accurate to the situation with this play,” says Murray. “David is so talented, a good-hearted man whom I like very much and a great director to work with. It really just came down to “˜artistic differences’ and it was better for both of us to end the process. Fortunately, the transition was seamless, and we are right on schedule to open.”
“I guess this is where I come into the process,” Flynn says with a chuckle. “Of course there is a lot of catch-up when you come into a production that is going to open in a week.Â It is not an ideal situation. But one of the things that was helpful was my history with this play. I had developed this piece sort of as Henry’s dramaturge for over a year. I was pretty familiar with the script, and I was producing it. I was involved in all the casting of the production, and I had a vision for the work.”
According to a description provided by the playwright and used by the theater company in its promotions, “Three Views of the Same Object is the story of enduring love.Â It is the kind of love, battered and bruised, that somehow manages to survive to the end of life. Jesse and Poppy have made a suicide pact against the time when their bodies deteriorate to the point when they lose control over their destinies. But life has thrown them a curve”¦so what does this mean for the pact? Three Views of the Same Object explores three different outcomes to this dilemma. It’s a story about aging in America.”
Murray continues, “By telling three stories that are interwoven simultaneously, the characters are exactly the same. It is one couple, played by six different actors.Â It is all there on view that these individual representations have made different choices in life and so the single story comes to three different outcomes.”
Murray just laughs when I ask if each of the three story lines is being staged by each of the three directors.Â “That’s good,” he chortles. “I like that. That would be an interesting thing to do for another production. Maybe I’ll do that sometime.Â Actually, for this work, it is more of a team effort.”
Both Aune and Starr have been involved in the production from the beginning.Â Aune served as artistic director ofÂ HorseChart Theatre Company in Denver, Colorado for six seasons, producing more than 20 shows including a month-long new works festival. Starr was featured as a thesp in Rogue productions of MilkMilkLemonade and Yard Sale Signs and co-helms an original play festival at Antelope Valley College.
“Hollace was actually a cast member of Three Views, performing in a small roll that has been cut from the play,” says Murray.Â “She was playing the role of a problematic daughter who is unable to support herself. The character still impacts the play with a few phone calls here and there, but we decided she doesn’t need to be a physical presence on stage.Â And Hollis has been serving as an assistant director right from the beginning and has stayed with the production.”
“The truth is, I needed help,” interjects Flynn.Â “I couldn’t do everything myself with one week’s notice. “You know, I am already in rehearsal as a director for the next play at the Rogue, which is A Bright New Boise by Samuel Hunter.Â It won the Obie last year. So, of course I am excited about that.Â At the same time, I am so excited to be creatively involved in Three Views.Â It is such a wonderful play and, boy, do we have an all-star cast.”
That might be an understatement. The ensemble for Three Views of the Same Object reads like a page from a Who’s Who of the LA stage community. For the sake of bringing this article in at less than novella length, I am forgoing listing their innumerable credits, awards and honors. The cast includes Anne Gee Byrd, K Callan, Catherine Carlen, Nancy Linehan Charles, Shelly Kurtz and Allan Miller.
“I couldn’t be in a better situation than I have with the Rogue,” Murray affirms. “The talent in this place is so amazing. Aside from being a playwright-in-residence, I have initiated a play development program within the Rogue. We hope to have eight plays in development that we can consider for next season..”
Three Views of the Same Object, Rogue Machine, 5041 Pico Blvd., LA 90019. Opens September 15. Plays Fri- Sat. 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Through October 28. Tickets: $30. www.roguemachinetheatre.com. 855-585-5185.