The Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
By Brian Fitzgerald
Why would a run-down old boathouse be landlocked? Perhaps because it’s actually a stage at BU’s Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.
Written by Kate Snodgrass, The Glider is about three sisters returning to rehash a lifetime of memories. The setting is a boathouse at their childhood lakeside home.
And while the advertisement for The Glider features a scenic picture of a lake, the atmosphere is far from serene: the sisters’ reunion ripples with tension from the start. The play, according to Snodgrass (GRS’90), is “a funny, serious look at family secrets and the monsters we all try to hide.”
Fran, the oldest sister, played by Laura Lee Latreille, has been mostly away for 20 years — with the exception of a few brief visits — and discovers that “there have been a lot of happenings within the family that she’s not privy to,” says Snodgrass, the Playwrights’ Theatre’s artistic director.
She originally wrote The Glider as a 40-minute one-act play, which was performed at the Sixth Annual Women on Top Theatre Festival at the theater in 2002. “It started as a one-act radio play with two sisters talking,” she says. “It was very much about secrets and now those secrets come out.”
Birgit Huppuch, who plays Fran’s sister Essie, describes the play as “intimate and raw — the family has a lot of unresolved issues.” She says Snodgrass, who attends all the rehearsals, is “an active playwright. She gives us lots of feedback.” It helps that in addition to being an award-winning author — her 1999 play Observatory won an Independent Reviewers of New England Award for “best new play” — Snodgrass also has experience directing and acting. Her directing credits include Blackout and Prayin’ Hands at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. As an actor she studied at Kansas University, Wichita State University, and the London Academy of Arts, and she has appeared at Lincoln Center, in regional theaters, and on national television.
Fran’s, Chrissie’s (Kimberly Parkergreen), and Essie’s parents are both dead, but their mother’s presence in the play is overwhelming: an urn containing her ashes is on a table. “In a way, the mother is a fourth character,” says Snodgrass, who also teaches in the GRS Creative Writing Program. As the vodka flows in the boathouse, so too flow the sisters’ emotions.
The set, with bare pine boards serving as walls and such props as duck decoys, rubber wading boots, and folded-up chaise lounges scattered around, has the rustic and somewhat dingy look of a boathouse that hasn’t been used in several years — in fact, ever since the sisters’ father died five years before. “Part of the stage had to be cut out so we could put a boat in,” Snodgrass says. “It certainly was a challenge to the production manager.”
And in the middle of the stage sits the play’s namesake: a glider, a swinging couch that the sisters sit on and unearth long-buried conflicts. “It could also be a metaphor,” says Snodgrass, “for gliding through life.”
The Glider will be performed Thursdays through Sundays from October 28 through November 14, at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave. Tickets are $22 for the general public and $15 for students and seniors. For more information, see Calendar, page 6, call 617-358-7529, or visit www.bu.edu/bpt.