Two Henrys, Kenneth Jones’ three-character humor-laced drama about Wisconsin snowbirds dealing with grief, guilt, prejudice and perceptions in Florida, is among titles featured in PlayWorks 2021, a series of virtual play readings produced by Third Avenue Playhouse, the popular resident theater in Sturgeon Bay, WI. Co-artistic director James Valcq will direct the June 18 presentation. Bernard Dotson, Susan Sweeney and Bev Ward will star.
The winter reading series is usually presented in person, but the pandemic has bumped it to the internet, where audiences around the world can make a reservation to view the Zoom-style presentation. TAP’s performance space also happens to be under renovation during this time. Check out the other titles in the TAP series, which began Feb. 5.
“I’m thrilled that Wisconsin audiences will finally get to meet the Wisconsin characters of my comedy-drama about an unexpected family reunion in Florida,” playwright Kenneth Jones said. “In its development at theaters around the country, the Midwestern details and references might’ve ‘popped’ less brightly for some audiences, but I’m sure the play will register with Door County theatergoers at Third Avenue Playhouse. In fact, from its inception, one of the play’s dramatic reference points was Door County — to say nothing of the celebration of the state pastry of Wisconsin, the Kringle.”
Here’s how TAP bills Two Henrys:
“Fall in love with a trio of Midwestern snowbirds in the Wisconsin streaming premiere of a new American play. In the dead of winter, Henry [Bernard Dotson] flies from New York to Florida to offer condolences at the funeral of a father figure he never knew. But as the booze flows at the wake, are the surviving widow [Susan Sweeney] and her grown daughter [Bev Ward] ready to raise a glass to the unexpected guest? Set in 2012, between the dusk of the worst days of the AIDS crisis and the dawn of marriage equality, Two Henrys is a humor-laced drama about guilt and grief, perceptions and prejudices and the urge to find family.”
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Two Henrys has received developmental workshops and readings by Pioneer Theatre Company, Pacific Resident Theatre, Cape May Stage, Red Mountain Theatre Company and Hudson Stage Company. The playwright added, “TAP is giving me and its audience a chance to hear a revised version of a crowd-pleasing family drama that I hope gets a world premiere one day soon.”
If you’re in the industry and want to read a free perusal copy Two Henrys, request one here.
Playwright Kenneth Jones calls Two Henrys, about a grieving Florida matriarch named Constance, who is confronted by the partner of her late son, “a comedy that becomes a drama.” The title refers to the fact that Constance’s late son and his surviving partner both share the same name, Henry. Constance’s grown daughter, Amy, is also part of the mix. All of the characters hail from the Midwest (Wisconsin and Indiana), but have a “snowbird” relationship with the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida. The play contains strong language and adult situations.
Two Henrys, was a two-time semi-finalist in the O’Neill Center’s National Playwrights Conference. It can be presented as a five-scene play without intermission or a two-act play experience. It requires one set, with an additional neutral playing area to suggest another setting.
Jones further explains Two Henrys this way: “Constance has just lost her husband, Mike, after 60 years of marriage. But his sudden death isn’t the only grief inside her as she prepares for his wake at the southwest Florida home that they shared. The sting of losing her son, Henry, to HIV/AIDS 15 years earlier is aroused again with the arrival of a stranger at her home: Henry’s partner, also named Henry, has come to express his condolences — and to make a connection with the mother-in-law he never knew, in a place where he was not previously welcomed. Constance’s daughter, Amy, emboldened by alcohol and threatened by Henry’s appearance, shares memories of her brother but also questions the motives of the outsider, even as she hides a secret about her own family. Henry’s audacious visit is met with an equally audacious invitation: Constance, a drinker herself, asks him to stay the night in the guest room — Henry’s old room — setting the stage for an overdue confrontation about the late Henry’s life and death, the surviving Henry’s guilt and goals, and the staunchly conservative family’s role in the decline of their golden child.”
He added, “Set in 2012, somewhere between the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic and the light of marriage equality, the play’s poolside conversations — dark, funny, humane, honest, touching — address prejudices and perceptions, mirroring coming-out exchanges that still go on today. But following the decades-long delay of addressing the realities of their family tree, is hope still possible for a mother who needs a son, a son who needs a mother and a sister who seems to only need a drink?”
Kenneth Jones is best known for his play Alabama Story, seen in 40 theaters around the country. His six-actor comedy, Hollywood, Nebraska, had a popular workshop production in 2017 by Wyoming Theater Festival, followed by a reading of a revised version of the script at Actors Theatre of Indiana. Ask for a perusal copy of Hollywood, Nebraska.
He is working on a new play commission for Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota.
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