Monday, April 30, 2018

Play a Day: Fairfield

Eric Coble
For Monday I read Fairfield by Eric Coble, and available at New Play Exchange.

Two months reading a new play every day, and this is the first time I have presented the work of Eric Coble which is odd because we are friends. I am friends with playwright Eric Coble. Everyone hear that? Me and Eric Coble. Yes.

We met in college, I was completing my fifth year as an undergrad and he began his MFA in Acting at Ohio University so though I think of him as older we are the same age. He stopped acting in 1996, I was the marketing director at Dobama Theatre when he walked on stage for the very last time in Eric Overmyer's Mi Vida Loca. Coble is an excellent actor and I am sorry no one else has the opportunity to see that.

Because he was committed to becoming a playwright! And he has been most prolific and most successful. I had the great good fortune to perform in The Velocity of Autumn opposite Cleveland legend Dorothy Silver at Beck Center in Lakewood, before it moved to the Arena Stage and then Broadway, a production for which Estelle Parson was nominated for a Tony.

The Velocity of Autumn
(Beck Center, 2012)
I am dropping all the names today.

For ten years Eric and I have been colleagues in the Playwrights' Unit at the Cleveland Play House, where I have been blessed to receive Eric's guidance, advice and good humor as I have made my own journey as a professional writer.

I have also had the fortune to experience several of his works in progress, including Fairfield, as well as seeing the CPH premiere production in 2015. In the spirit of #NewDayNewPlay, however, I did re-read it before writing my recommendation!

Fairfield takes place in an inner-ring suburb somewhere in the United States. Except the only city like this one in the United States in Cleveland Heights, a magical fantasyland where an almost equal number of white people and black people (and a not insignificant number of Jewish people) live side-by-side and get into heated arguments about race and racism and yet never actually set fire to anything and we don't leave because we love it here. Except for all the racism.

(Cleveland Play House, 2015)
Eric was a member of our school board when he wrote this play (we both live in Cleveland Heights, the city of great writers) and after the table read I asked if he wasn't concerned about how it might be received. He just gave that carefree smile of his and told me he wasn't running for reelection, anyway.

Coble has an incomparable way of taking difficult contemporary issues to outrageously hilarious extremes, and Fairfield is a classic example of this. He explodes modern conversations about race, while still presenting engaging and (with one obvious exception) sympathetic, well-meaning, occasionally delusional characters who truly want to do the right thing, even if they only help make everything spin more wildly out of control.

As one of the parents whose children attend Fairfield might say, Eric Coble knows how to "use his words."

This month I have been heartened to read thirty great works by thirty tremendous playwrights. So many of them were recommended to me by other playwrights, dedicated individuals who proudly promote each other's work.

I am taking a short break from writing, however, as I concentrate on an outdoor, summer production of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. Perhaps I will see you there!

Eric Coble is currently developing his new play, "The Girl Who Swallowed a Cactus" at the New Visions/New Voices Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

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