Allyson Currin Prepares for a Premiere

The playwright's "Sooner/Later" gets its first staging anywhere at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, with previews beginning Saturday

click to enlarge Allyson Currin - PHOTO: Provided
PHOTO: Provided
Allyson Currin

Bringing a new play into existence involves very different activity than staging a show that’s had previous productions. Playwright Allyson Currin, from Washington D.C., has the world premiere of her new play, Sooner/Later, this month at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park — starting in previews on Saturday and officially opening March 29.

It’s her second work to be staged in Cincinnati; High School Alien, a play for young audiences, toured to area schools in 2015. For this production, she’s partnering with director Lisa Rothe, a veteran of staging new scripts who is co-artistic director of The Actors Center in New York City and co-president of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Currin’s play began a few years ago as a one-act script called The Sooner Child. Its central character, Nora, is a single mom who’s re-entering the dating scene. Her teenage daughter has opinions about the men Nora keeps meeting — or, in fact, missing at a local coffee shop. As fate would have it, those dating disasters are witnessed by Griff, a nice man who holds some promise if only Nora will open up. It’s hard to tell if she can.

During a talkback following a production of her one-act play, someone asked what might happen next. That query sent Currin on to a second act for the show that Cincinnati Playhouse audiences will see, and it took Nora’s story down a path with an unexpected metaphysical twist. (No spoilers here — Currin wants theatergoers to be surprised.)

When Blake Robison, the Playhouse’s artistic director, announced this show for the current season — Sooner/Later is the Playhouse’s 76th world premiere — its director was to be Wendy Goldberg, a well-known proponent of new plays who’s the artistic director at Connecticut’s Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. She oversaw a workshop of Currin’s script in 2017. “Her involvement provided profound contributions. My script is stronger for her participation,” Currin says of Goldberg.

Rothe and Currin were not acquainted when Robison introduced them. “She has phenomenal insight because of lots of experience with new work, especially at the Lark Play Development Center in New York City,” Currin says. “Lisa is great, amazing, like my soul sister, although I’ve never worked with her before.”

They collaborated on the show’s casting of Mary Bacon as Nora, Todd Cerveris as Griff and Olivia Cygan as Nora’s precocious daughter Lexie. Currin has spent time at the Playhouse as Rothe and the cast have been rehearsing for the upcoming production.

Currin is pleased with how it has come together. “We have an amazing team of actors with no egos, just good people who want to do it well,” she says. It pleases her that Rothe works with a tone of generosity.

While the story of Sooner/Later has some serious themes, Currin is quick to say that humor is important. In fact, she calls it her “default setting.” She prefers scripts that work on many different levels.

“(I gravitate to) plays that make me laugh and cry and are ambitious,” she says. “Comedy is much harder to write than straight dramatic writing. To make an audience laugh, you need to win them over. When that happens, you have earned an intimate and personal trust, and they’re willing to go to bigger, darker or sadder places. The more you make them laugh, the more they’ll be willing to cry.”

Currin’s confident that Sooner/Later will hit people that way. Some people who attended the show’s first read-through when rehearsals began were moved to tears. “I hope people will come with open minds, ready to laugh,” she says. “I hope we are giving them a good story, well told. New work can be hard. You have no expectations, and rules are out the window.”

Currin is eager to see the reaction of audiences. “I hope they will come away with a strong urge to hug people they are close to. We need to look past differences we have with people we’re close to. Carpe diem! My play asks people to be grateful for close relationships.”

Sooner/Later runs Saturday through April 21 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (962 Mount Adams Circle, Mount Adams). Tickets/more info: cincyplay.com

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