"Oceanside" Blog - Week 1

The Scary Thing About a Dream Coming True

There’s nothing like the exhilaration of a new play. Not just a modern play, or a recent play, but a new, never-been-seen, ink-still-wet piece of theatre that’s as fresh as this morning’s catch.

Nick Gandiello is one of America’s most exciting young playwrights, and Oceanside will be his first fully-mounted professional production, so it’s as thrilling for him as it is for us to see this fascinating family drama go up right here in Lowell. With The Best Brothers clearing out this weekend (last chance to see it, folks!), the stage of the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre will take on a new setting: the town of Oceanside, Long Island.

“This is really a dream come true,” Nick said at the company meet-and-greet last week. “Of course, the scary thing about a dream coming true is that you can’t control it anymore.”

There’s a kind of truth in that. Oceanside is a project years (and years) in development, having gone through a long string of workshops and readings. At each stage of the process, Nick has been at the helm, writing and rewriting the script, in charge of each plot twist and every fine tuning. Now, his script explodes into the world of production. There’s a director. There’s a set designer, a lighting designer, a sound designer, a costume designer, a props artisan. There are five actors. There’s a stage manager to keep the whole thing on track. The play’s success rides on the efforts of dozens of professional artists and technicians, each contributing a small part to a very large project. In three weeks, it will be a multi-sensory, immersive experience. Just a week ago, it was words on a page.

But those words, ultimately, infuse every aspect of the show. Nick has a remarkable knack for sharp dialogue that feels completely natural. “I just read the play as if I were in the living room with these people,” says director Melia Bensussen. She’s right: the language of Oceanside is shockingly organic, so much so that at even the first read through of the script, the actors seemed to be simply conversing, and not “reading” at all. The style serves the script well, and even as the plot gets intense—very intense—the characters always retain their humanity.

Rehearsals this week have consisted largely of “table work,” when the actors go through the script together, discussing what drives their characters, their relationships, their actions, and their conversation around Oceanside has already gone deep and rich. “The team that’s working on this is a very warm and very giving group of people,” Nick noticed. “It was obvious from the first moment we sat down together. Our first session of table work was full of insights, and really personal disclosure that has helped enrich the conversation so far.” Once the cast “gets on their feet” to move around the physical space, a fuller picture will emerge, soon to be framed by the work of the designers, striving to create an image of Oceanside that will match the script’s essence.

It’s an enormous collaborative undertaking. Scary, yes. But the material is outstanding. And at MRT, that material is in capable hands.

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