Horovitz brings ‘Gloucester Blue’ home


by Mark Sardella (The Wakefield Daily Item)

israel_horovitz2Gloucester Blue is a comic thriller and has often been compared to a Coen Brothers movie,” says Wakefield native Israel Horovitz about his new play, which opens this week at Gloucester Stage.

“I can see why,” he says. “It’s a comedy, but quite dark. The final moments of the play are, I think, cripplingly funny. For Massachusetts people, there is much to recognize. I think local people are going to love this play.”

Horovitz grew up in Wakefield, Mass., graduating from Wakefield High School in 1956. His 70+ plays have been translated and performed in as many as 30 languages worldwide and have introduced such actors as Al Pacino, John Cazale, Jill Clayburgh, Marsha Mason, Gerard Depardieu and many others.

His screenplays include Author! Author!, The Strawberry Statement, Sunshine, James Dean and My Old Lady, which Horovitz wrote and directed, starring Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott-Thomas.

His many awards include the OBIE (twice), The Drama Desk Award and the Award in Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1979, he co-founded the Gloucester Stage Company and served as its Artistic Director for many years.

wheeler_allenGloucester Blue takes place in the attic loft of an old industrial building in The Fort section of Gloucester owned by the upscale Bradford Ellis IV also known as Bummy and his wife Lexi. Working class housepainter Stumpy has been contracted to refurbish the building and he has hired Latham, a friend-of-a-friend, to help him complete the job.

As the play opens, Stumpy and Latham are hard at work, spackling damaged walls and applying fresh plaster and primer. Out of work for the last six months Latham is grateful for the job. When Lexi shows up with paint color samples, a story of intrigue, seduction, betrayal and money is set into motion in this dark comedy. According to Horovitz, “If I look at Gloucester Blue as though someone else wrote it, I would describe it as a very dark, very funny play about class distinctions.”

In addition to writing the play, Horovitz is also directing its New England premier, which he says presents another set of challenges.

gloucester_blue2“I am directing a Gloucester-based play in Gloucester, so it all has to ring true,” he says. “In October, when Gloucester Blue opens in France, it won’t have the same pressure of replicating Gloucester-speak. But, for the moment, the four profoundly-talented actors of Gloucester Blue’s cast will have to walk and talk like Gloucesterites, as well as face the challenges of acting a comic thriller.”

Tackling the dual role of playwright and director is nothing new for Horovitz.

“I’ve directed my own plays dozens of times before, and it almost always feels a bit schizophrenic,” he says. “I have to distance myself from myself. I have to force myself to look at my play like an artifact, like somebody else wrote it. As a director, I’m tougher on the playwright (me) than I would ever allow an outsider, someone not living in my skin, to be.”

Horovitz acknowledges that beneath the comedy and drama of Gloucester Blue, there is a purpose, an idea that the wants to address with the audience.

gloucester_blue“Gloucester Blue dramatizes a collision between “old money” and “no money,” he says.

“When I first came to Gloucester, the local heroes were carpenters and plumbers, lumpers and fishermen,” he says. “House-prices were reasonable. Young local people married and bought a small house at an affordable price.”

But, he says, all that has changed.

“There are just a handful of lumpers left working Gloucester’s docks, where there were once more than a thousand,” Horovitz observes. “Respect for working class people is at a shocking low, while respect for investment bankers is at a shocking high. CEOs are Gloucester’s new-age heroes.”

Horovitz hopes Gloucester Blue succeeds as entertainment while also provoking the audience to think.

“When the laughter dies down,” he says, “hopefully, there will be much to talk about.”

Horovitz is excited about the cast of Gloucester Blue.

walsh_allen“I have assembled a remarkable cast,” he says. “Robert Walsh and Francisco Solorzano were seen at GSC a few years back in my play Sins of the Mother, another of my Gloucester-based plays. Boston-based actors Esme Allen and Lewis Wheeler round out the cast of four. They are as good as it gets.”

Three of the four actors have already appeared in previous productions of the play.

“We will have rehearsed around three weeks prior to opening,” Horovitz says, “but Francisco Solorzano and Robert Walsh have already done the play twice. Lewis Wheeler did last year’s reading of the play. And Esme Allen worked a bit with me prior to rehearsal start.”

Horovitz says he’s looking forward to debuting his latest Gloucester-based play locally.

Gloucester Blue has already had wonderful success in theatres in New York, Washington and Florida,” he says. “It has already been translated into French and Italian. It is lovely for me to finally be able to bring this Gloucester play home.”

Gloucester Blue runs September 17 through October 3 at Gloucester Stage, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $28 for all performances. Tickets are $1 for ages 25 years and under for all performances. The $1 tickets are cash only and available at the door on day of performance only. Purchase tickets online, or phone the Gloucester Stage Box Office at 978-281-4433.

[This story originally appeared in the September 15, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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