Actors Lesley Fera, Susan Pellegrino and Robert Scott Smith will be in a Pioneer Theatre Company rehearsal studio with playwright Kenneth Jones and director Karen Azenberg starting Feb. 1 for a weeklong developmental reading of Jones’ new play Two Henrys. The family drama, getting three public script-in-hand presentations Feb. 5-6, is the second new-play title in Pioneer’s winter 2016 Play-By-Play reading series in Salt Lake City.
The world premiere of Jones’ Alabama Story was a critical and box office success at PTC in January 2015 and will have at least three Equity regional productions in 2016, in Florida, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. PTC artistic director Azenberg directed Alabama Story and also collaborated with Jones on the conception of the December 2015 Pioneer musical revue It Happened One Christmas.
Here’s how Pioneer bills the three-character Two Henrys: “In the dead of winter, Henry flies to Florida to offer condolences at the funeral of his late partner’s father. But in a house that he was never welcomed to visit before, is the divide between him and the surviving widow and her grown daughter too wide? Set in 2012, somewhere between the dusk of the AIDS crisis and the dawn of marriage equality, Two Henrys — from the playwright who wrote PTC favorite Alabama Story — is a funny, warm, hope-filled look at three indelible characters struggling valiantly to come to terms with their perceptions and prejudices.”
An earlier draft of Two Henrys was a 2015 semi-finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, where Alabama Story was a 2014 finalist. Request a perusal copy of the play.
Resident Salt Lake City actor Smith, who was born in Idaho and studied theatre at the University of Utah before earning an MFA with the Old Globe Theatre and working regionally and in New York, plays fortysomething Henry, who makes the trek to Florida to connect with would-be family. Smith played the title role in Bat Boy and Henry David Thoreau in Charm (both for Salt Lake Acting Company) and created and acted in Senses 5 with Utah’s Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory, of which he is co-artistic director. Smith is an adjunct instructor for the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah.
Veteran actress Susan Pellegrino plays Constance, the Midwestern snowbird who settled in Southwest Florida with her husband Mike years ago. Now in her seventies, Constance has just lost her spouse but is haunted by earlier losses, the memories of which are aroused with the arrival of Henry. Pellegrino has worked on Broadway (1997’s A View From the Bridge, The Kentucky Cycle, 1996’s Present Laughter, Two Shakespearean Actors), Off-Broadway (The Hummingbird’s Tour, The Paris Letter, Shows For Days), regionally (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ A Kid Like Jake) and in national tours (Neil Simon’s Rumors).
Lesley Fera will play the role of Amy, a salty fortysomething Wisconsin wife and mom who is dealing with the loss of her father and the appearance of Henry, her late brother’s partner. She appears in Pioneer’s current world premiere of T.J. Brady’s academia-set drama Two Dollar Bill. A native Californian, Fera’s Pacific Resident Theatre credits include The Homecoming (Ruth),The Hasty Heart (Sister Margaret), Happy End (Lillian), Big Love (Olympia), Anna Christie (Anna) and Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Lady Chatterley). Select regional credits include Noises Off (Asolo Rep); Misalliance (Pennsylvania Centre Stage); The Children’s Hour (Provincetown Rep); Communicating Doors (San Jose Rep); and Baby Taj (TheatreWorks). On television, she plays Veronica Hastings on ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.”
Bryan Sommer is the stage manager of Play-By-Play’s Two Henrys.
The Play-By-Play presentations are offered in the intimate Babcock Theatre in the lower level of Pioneer’s 930-seat home on the University of Utah campus. Two Henrys will be read 8 PM Friday Feb. 5 and 2 & 8 PM Saturday Feb. 6. To reserve $10 seats, visit pioneertheatre.org.
Read about the March 11-12 Play-By-Play title, Sarah Bierstock’s Honor Killing, directed by Bill Castellino.
The 2016 Play-By-Play season launched with Tim Slover’s Elizabethan romp March Tale. Check out the Salt Lake Tribune’s recent feature about it.
In the meantime, Pioneer’s mainstage world premiere of T.J. Brady’s Two Dollar Bill has been getting enthusiastic reviews. It continues to Jan. 30.