Bohjalian Play Highlights George Street Playhouse's New Season

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Bohjalian Play Highlights George Street Playhouse's New Season

Artistic Direct David Saint Has a Rich, Diverse Lineup Set for the NBPAC Stages

Expect George Street Playhouse, the cornerstone of the arts community in New Brunswick, to bring down the house when the curtain goes up on its 2023-24 season.

Under the deft touch of long-serving artistic director David Saint, the new season will include a comedy about a playwright haunted by the ghosts of lovers' past, a poignant tale of two sisters, and a harrowing account of how one man used music to survive Nazi persecution.

And the fourth announced show, “The Club,” just might steal the show.

It’s an original play written by bestselling author turned Hollywood hot commodity Chris Bohjalian, whose novel, “The Flight Attendant,” was adapted into an HBO TV series starring Kaley Cuoco, and whose latest novel, “The Lioness,” has also been optioned for TV.

“The Club” recognizes that many of us desperately long to belong to the club – social strata where everyone has the right car, the right house, and the right friends. But this sometimes poignant, sometimes witty exploration of race relations set in 1968 suburban New Jersey asks the question: What price are we willing to pay to be in it?

“He’s done a fascinating thing because he’s managed to write a play set in 1968 in very much at that time and in New Jersey, but it’s also incredibly relevant and resonates to what’s happening today,” Saint said.

“There’s also the examining, the notion of the White savior and how much as a White person, how much can you and should you do and do you get involved with what you think is the right action. And yet, if you’re not a person of color, then you might not be doing exactly what you should,” Saint added.

Bohjalian was inspired to write “The Club” and place it in Saint’s hands to direct after George Street Playhouse’s world premiere adaptation of his novel “Midwives,” in 2020.

“Midwives” took on a whole new meaning after Bohjalian took the White expecting couple from the novel and recast them in the production as a Black couple, at Saint’s suggestion. Suddenly, there was a layer to the production that touched on racial disparities in maternal health care - a Black mother in New Jersey is almost seven times more likely than a White mother to die from maternity-related complications, according to state statistics.

So, “The Club” is Bohjalian’s attempt to distill ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ and ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf’ into a story set in a country club much like the one his parents belonged to in the late 1960s.

“The Club,” scheduled to run at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC) Feb. 27-March 17, 2024, will be preceded by “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years” (Nov. 28-Dec. 17, 2023) and “Ibsen’s Ghost” (Jan. 16-Feb. 4, 2024).

The season will open with “The Pianist” (Sept. 26-Oct. 22, 2023).

A fifth show, which has not yet been announced by George Street Playhouse, will run April 23-May 19, 2024.

Saint, who is celebrating his 25th year as the artistic director at George Street Playhouse, said he and his crew have already pivoted to the upcoming season. He’s hoping audiences will be just as eager to fill each seat at the NBPAC, although many of his industry colleagues across the country report that crowds have been slow to return in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s so funny, this season just ended, and yet we’ve moved fully into the next season,” he said. “We’re casting ‘The Pianist’ right now. The designs are already done. The season has already started again and hopefully, people will be excited.”

“The Pianist”

Adapted for the stage and directed by Emily Mann, and based on the book “The Pianist” by Wladyslaw Szpilman

Sept. 26-Oct. 22, 2023

In a new adaptation for the stage, “The Pianist” is Szpilman’s harrowing account of the annihilation of Jewish life in Warsaw during World War II and his remarkable survival through the transcendent power of music.​

His memoir inspired an Oscar-winning film – and now Mann, an acclaimed playwright/director, has crafted an innovative, immersive play with music that delivers this tale with soul-shaking power and thrilling theatrical immediacy.

“Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years”

By Emily Mann, adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany, with Amy Hill Hearth, and directed by Laiona Michelle

Nov. 28-Dec. 17, 2023

“Having Our Say” is a full-length play based on the bestselling book. This production revolves around the remarkable lives of African-American sisters, Sadie and Bessie Delany, who both surpass the age of 100. Their extraordinary journey unfolds as they share their personal experiences, which include growing up as the daughters of a former slave who became a respected professor, establishing successful careers, and integrating into a New York suburb.

During its celebrated run on Broadway, “Having Our Say” captivated audiences and received a Tony Award nomination for best play. Through this powerful adaptation of the Delany sisters' book, audiences are invited to witness a compelling tale that transcends race and gender, offering a profound reflection on American history as seen through the eyes of two unforgettable women.

“Ibsen's Ghost”

Written by Charles Busch and directed by Carl Andress

Jan 16-Feb. 4, 2024

Ibsen wrote great stories about women, but how much did the women in his life do more than inspire the stories?

Based on a few irrefutable facts, Ibsen's Ghost tells a tall (and hilarious) tale of the legendary Norwegian playwright's wife, Suzannah, the week after the great man's state funeral. A fierce keeper of the flame, Suzannah is confronted with a series of predicaments: her husband's long-lost son, his former protégée peddling a libelous diary, and an enigmatic rodent exterminator known as the Rat Wife. This is the play Ibsen never wrote but with more laughs and a happy ending.

“The Club”

Written by Chris Bohjalian and directed by David Saint.

Feb. 27- March 17, 2024

Three married couples collide in a suburban living room one autumn Sunday – what they think is a refuge from the rock ‘n roll turbulence outside their neighborhood – only to discover there’s no escape from the era’s cultural upheaval.

“The Club” is making its world premiere at the George Street Playhouse after bestselling novelist Bohjalian (“The Flight Attendant,” “Hour of the Witch”) also premiered his critically acclaimed stage adaptation of his novel, “Midwives,” in 2020 at George Street Playhouse.

“The Club” is rich with biting wit and startling twists as it explores racism, marriage, and the lies we tell ourselves daily. And though the play is set in 1968, it’s eerily timely.

Story By: Chuck O'Donnell
Photo Credit: George Street Playhouse