John Kuntz Sprinkles Dark Humor Through Salt Girl
Solo performance debuts at Playwrights’ Theatre
In the slide show above, John Kuntz (GRS’05) discusses his one-man play The Salt Girl, premiering November 5 at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.
John Kuntz likes to talk to himself. “I do it all the time,” he says. “And I have fabulous conversations with myself.”
That habit comes in handy on stage — the playwright and actor has written and starred in six one-man shows. His most recent, a darkly comic drama called The Salt Girl, debuts tonight at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.
“In my other one-man shows, I generally play between 30 and 40 roles,” says Kuntz (GRS’05). “The Salt Girl is different because I play only one — for two whole hours.”
Told from the viewpoint of Quint, a lonely, middle-aged gay man, The Salt Girl explores the character’s search for identity, acceptance, and closure. The play opens as Quint is about to commit suicide. Moments after he swallows a handful of pills and ties a plastic bag over his head, his cell phone rings.
“Your father was in an accident,” the caller tells him. “His condition is serious.”
Past and present collide as Quint sits with his comatose father and revisits painful memories. Kuntz moves through decades, transforming from embittered adult to awkward teenager, and back. He recalls his older sister, who vanished before he was born, his mother, who died when he was a child, and former lover Ted, who seduced him when he was 15.
“I am absolutely fascinated by Quint,” says director David R. Gammons. “I feel so much for him — for his loneliness and disconnection.”
To emphasize Quint’s detachment from reality, set designers constructed an enormous wall of 25 television sets that play snippets of old movies, commercials, and home videos.
“The screens represent fragments of Quint’s memories, fantasies, and desires,” says Gammons. “Most one-person shows don’t have a set at all, and we’ve created this dense and layered world with lots of props and music and projections.”
Kuntz, a graduate of the GRS Creative Writing Program, has written 14 plays, including the solo show Starf*ckers, winner of an Elliot Norton Award. Another, Jasper Lake, debuted at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in 2004 and went on to receive Kennedy Center honors, with the Paula Vogel National Playwriting Award of the center’s Michael Kanin Playwriting Awards Program.
He compares acting in a show that he’s also written to being inside a clock. “When I’m writing a play, I see only the face of the clock,” he says. “But when I’m acting in it, I can see all the gears and say, ‘This is too long and this needs to be moved.’”
Being both playwright and actor saves time because “it eliminates the bickering that typically occurs between the actors and playwright,” Kuntz continues. “The playwright has the final say, of course, but sometimes the actor is right. And because I’m both — well, I guess I’m always right!”
The Salt Girl opens November 5 at 7:30 p.m., and runs Thursdays to Sundays at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave., through November 22. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $25 for seniors, $10 for students (ID required) and may be purchased online, by phone at 866-811-4111, or in person at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Performance times vary; check the calendar. This play contains nudity. For more information, call 617-353-5443.
Vicky Waltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments