by Samuel D. Hunter
directed by Davis McCallum
originally produced at Playwrights Horizons,
New York, NY.
November 21, 2014
through January 4, 2015
Eddie manages an Italian chain restaurant in Pocatello—a small, unexceptional American city that is slowly being paved over with strip malls and franchises. But he can’t serve enough Soup, Salad & Breadstick Specials to make his hometown feel like home. Against the harsh backdrop of Samuel D. Hunter’s Idaho, this heartbreaking comedy is a cry for connection in an increasingly lonely American landscape.
Set in an Olive Garden restaurant, in the middle of a strip mall in Pocatello, Idaho, Pocatello is a heart-felt and wickedly funny satire of the increasingly faceless, homogenous American landscape. The play centers around Eddie, the restaurant’s manager, a closeted homosexual who is stubbornly determined, but chronically hapless in his attempt to turn this quotidian franchise into a warm family environment. The restaurant's slogan is, “When you’re here, you’re family,” but all around him we see the opposite: marriages falling apart, troubled kids going uncared for, and a wait staff apathetically punching the clock. Eddie’s own family can’t bear to sit at the same table for more than a few minutes, and word just came in that corporate headquarters are planning to shut this location down due to poor business. Against the hard-hearted suburban backdrop of Hunter’s Idaho, Pocatellois a cry for true human connection in an American landscape that makes it ever easier to live without it. The tiny, epic human struggles Hunter finds in this unextraordinary setting create a panoramic portrait of a community in isolation.
Having long followed Sam’s writing trajectory – from his days at the University of Iowa’s MFA program to his fellowship at The Juilliard School, to his early productions in smaller houses around New York City – Playwrights Horizons considers him among the finest, most indelible voices in the contemporary American canon. We’re proud to consider him part of our family of artists and quite excited by the direction this newest play is taking him. Pocatello is Sam’s most ambitious, large-scale play to date. In this restaurant dining room, he orchestrates a large cast of characters in a sophisticated structure, intricately weaving together multiple narrative threads that lead us to an unexpectedly intimate, and powerfully emotional conclusion. From our very first read of the play, this struck us as an important new American play – one we feel confident will have a long life at theaters around the country - and the work of a writer who is continuing to master his craft.
We originally scheduled Pocatello for three and a half weeks of rehearsal time, but an extra week of rehearsal is especially necessary for this play. Sam is addressing large cultural themes in this play, and doing so without ever hitting his themes on the head. As in all of his plays, he aims to lead us to his ideas through our experience and emotion, rather by articulating them to us directly; it’s one of the qualities of his writing we love. The extra time will allow Sam to fine-tune each of his ten characters in collaboration with director Davis McCallum and his cast and design team; it’s through seeing a scene rehearsed in repetition that details can be best examined. In addition, an extra week of rehearsal will be crucial for director McCallum to meet the staging challenges this play presents, as it asks him to choreograph ten actors in a tight space in order to create a restaurant in action.
Director: Davis McCallum
Set Design: Lauren Helpern
Lighting Design: Eric Southern
Sound Design: Matt Tierney
Costume Design: Jessica Pabst
Cast: Jessica Dickey, Jonathan Hogan, Crystal Finn, Brian Hutchison, Leah Karpel, T.R. Knight, Cameron Scoggins, Brenda Wehle, Danny Wolohan, Elvy Yost