Suzanne Bradbeer says that theatergoers shouldn’t be too worried about the way she leans politically. In her latest play, “The God Game,” it may seem that she’s picking on Republicans but she says that’s not the case.
“I know how identity informs how we receive a story, so for that reason I feel better keeping my personal beliefs to myself, at least until after the play,” said Bradbeer, whose story about a Republican presidential candidate is under way at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany and will run through May 25.
“I don’t know if the question is irrelevant, and it is a good question. But I don’t want the audience to come in with some preconception. I prefer they see it, see what they think and then they can ask me about politics.”
The play, which is being given a “rolling” world premiere, meaning it is being produced for the first time by two or three theaters within its first year, focuses on politics and religion.
Tom, played by Laurence Lau, is a centrist Republican who has earned the presidential nomination of his party. His wife is Lisa, played by Albany’s Yvonne Perry, and he has asked a close friend of the couple, Matt, played by Jeffrey Binder, to be his running mate.
4 productions to open
‘The God Game’
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 North Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, and a 2 p.m. performance on May 14, runs through May 25
HOW MUCH: $60-$16
MORE INFO: 445-7469, www.capitalrep.org
‘Little Shop of Horrors’
WHERE: Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St., Cohoes
WHEN: Opens 8 p.m. tonight and runs through May 18; performance times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
HOW MUCH: $35-$25
MORE INFO: 237-5858, www.cohoesmusichall.com
WHERE: Classic Theater Guild, 137 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens 7:30 p.m. Friday and runs through May 18; performance times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $12
MORE INFO: www.classictheaterguild.com, 387-9150
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens 9 p.m. Friday and runs through May 18; performance times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28-$18
MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378, www.sloctheater.org
“I think the germ of this whole thing was watching the wild ride of the 2008 election cycle,” said Bradbeer, who grew up in Charlottesville, Va., and lives in New York City. “It was an emotional roller coaster and quite fascinating. I tried to write these characters as real people and not ideologues. I think it just made more sense to make him a centrist Republican because that put more pressure on him when it comes to faith and religion.”
The play, a hit at the Next Act! New Play Summit sponsored by Capital Rep and Proctors in 2012, was workshopped in New York City and then had its first theatrical production at the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples, Fla.
The Capital Rep production includes the same cast members as in Florida, and Perry isn’t the only Albany connection. The show’s director, both in Florida and Albany, is University at Albany graduate Kristin Coury.
The play got a fine reception in Naples, which Bradbeer said is a lot more conservative than upstate New York.
“I hope all your conservative friends come and watch it,” said Bradbeer. “A gentleman approached me after a show in Florida, a conservative, and said how he didn’t feel smashed or talked down too. He liked it. Everything gets distilled down to a bumper sticker mentality, but I think I wrote three-dimensional characters who are sometimes caught in a dilemma, and they’re not just walking, talking points. They’re real people, and the play is a portrait of a marriage and a friendship.”
While Bradbeer thought she would be an actress, she always had an interest in writing.
Inspired by alcott
“Looking back, one of my first memories is how I wanted to be like Louisa May Alcott,” she said. “I enjoyed the romance of writing, and I read how she had described sitting in an attic as a young girl with a book and an apple. That sounded like a great idea to me.”
Bradbeer went to Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., and studied language, literature and history. She headed for New York City after graduation and got involved in a small, women-only theater group.
“We became aware of how there were a lack of roles for women,” she said. “At one point two other women got together and decided to create something for themselves, and I was struck at how jealous I was of them. It took me aback in a good way. I wasn’t jealous of them because they were acting. I was jealous because they were writing.”
That was nearly 20 years ago. Bradbeer changed careers, became a playwright, and “The God Game” is her third published work. Her other plays that have been produced in regional theaters around the country are “Full Bloom” and “Shakespeare in Vegas.”
She also has worked as a dramaturge with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller.
“If one if the actors had a question about their character or a scene, I was the one who got to call up Arthur Miller and ask him,” she said, recalling her time with the Signature Theatre Company in New York when they were producing a version of Miller’s “The American Clock” in 1998.
“I also did research on the time the play was set in, helping the actors understand their characters and the time period better.”
Bradbeer said she was nervous when she had to call Miller for the first time.
“I was told, not before 8 a.m., so I’m sitting there staring at the clock, waiting,” said Bradbeer. “When I call right at 8, he answered and said, ‘you’re too early,’ so I told him I was sorry and hung up, waited a minute and a half and called him again. He answers the phone this time and says, ‘I’m sorry, I was just teasing you.’ It actually turned out to be a great experience.”
Capital Region theater fans will have plenty of other options for live theatrical entertainment over the next two weekends.
The Classic Theater Guild, in its new gallery space at 137 State St. in Schenectady, will be putting a new twist on a production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” opening Friday night at 7:30. Mandy Bova is directing the show, which has Amy LaMena in the role of Professor Higgins and Tricia Stuto playing Eliza.
At the Cohoes Music Hall, C-R Productions is staging “Little Shop of Horrors,” opening tonight at 8 p.m.
The Schenectady Light Opera Company, meanwhile, will mount a production of “Young Frankenstein,” directed by Michael McDermott. The show opens Friday night and runs through May 18.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]