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"The American Plan" at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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"The American Plan" at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Salon Ziba

200 West 57th Street
New York, NY
Open seven days a week
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Manhattan Theatre Club
The American Plan
(MTC Show Website)
By Richard Greenberg

Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

Directed by David Grindley

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

With: Kieran Campion, Austin Lysy, Brenda Pressley,
Lily Rabe, Mercedes Ruehl

Scenic and Costume Design: Jonathan Fensom
Lighting Design: Mark McCullough
Sound Design: Darron L. West & Bray Poor
Wig Design: Tom Watson
Production Stage Manager: Laurie Goldfeder
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Assoc. Artistic Director: Mandy Greenfield
Director of Artistic Development: Jerry Patch
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Jill Turner Lloyd
Production Manager: Kurt Gardner
Director of Casting: Nancy Piccione

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 25, 2009

There are few current dramatic plays so riveting, yet so unassumingly enjoyable and intellectually gratifying, that The American Plan greets the viewer like he/she has won the lottery. From the moment the scrim curtain slowly moves sideways, revealing a 1960 private dock on a resort-populated, Catskill lake, I was there. My thoughts and emotions were magnetically drawn to the unfolding story, one of yearning, loneliness, repression, pride, possessiveness, jealousy, lust, and illusion. These multiple elements burst through Richard Greenberg’s lusciously lyrical dialogue like psychic echoes of the human soul.

Eva Adler (Mercedes Ruehl) repressed the horrors of World War II and the subsequent loss of her husband, and she flamed with jealousy toward her daughter’s romantic opportunities. She exuded possessiveness and lived on an illusion that she, too, was seductive and desirable. Lili Adler (Lily Rabe), Eva’s daughter, yearned for intimacy and approval, yet she repressed her desire to escape her mother’s control and functioned through literary sources of illusion. Nick Lockridge (Kieran Campion), a strapping youth, who arrives on the dock like a hormonal, fairy tale faun, represses his past and yearns for stability and status. Gil Harbison (Austin Lysy), a quasi-stranger who happens onto the scene, is consumed with lust, loneliness, possessiveness, and jealousy, and yearns for what once was. However, Olivia Shaw (Brenda Pressley), Eva’s hired housekeeper and teatime companion, is the one character without illusion, devoid of jealousy, lust, or yearning. She is African-American, and this is 1960. Olivia is devoted to her ladies, and she remains the most secure, solid, and sanguine of the five inter-locking characters.

There are two Acts, with Act II occurring 10 years later in a staid upper west side apartment on Central Park, and every moment of this production is spell-binding. In fact, Mr. Greenberg’s dialogue is replete with poetic rhythm and imbedded nuance. Jonathan Fensom’s scenic and costume design sets the intriguing moment, whether it be upscale Catskills or upper west side gentility. Tom Watson (wig design) created the most iconic Post-War, German-American hairdo one could imagine. Mark McCullough shifts the light with aesthetic detail, from moonlit lakeside to warmly lit interiors, and Darron L West and Bray Poor designed inspirational sound, such as the 1970’s antiwar protests beneath the Park view window. David Gridley has directed this virtuosic cast with attention to the poetic tones of dialogue and ambiance. Even the most engaging humor (usually emanating through Eva’s perfected accent) is spoken in seamless cadence. There is a theme of unrequited longing, eternally established in the human condition, but there is also a theme of constructing space, a moat in the mind, that self-protects through time. Kudos to Richard Greenberg on the revival of The American Plan, a 1990 dramatic gem. And, kudos to this incomparable cast.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at