The new work — marking Thurber's Atlantic debut — opens Sept. 20 for a run through Oct. 14. The troupers directed by Jackson Gay include Atlantic members Johnston ("Third Rock From the Sun," Atlantic's The Lights), Maggie Kiley (Atlantic's The Lesson, Frame 312) and Todd Weeks (Atlantic's The Voysey Inheritance, Broadway's Full Monty) and Meredith Brandt, Jesse Eisenberg ("The Squid and the Whale"), Miriam Shor (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Michael T. Weiss (NBC's "The Pretender," the feature film "Jeffrey").
"Set in rural western Massachusetts, Scarcity tells the tale of two siblings [Meredith Brandt and Jesse Eisenberg] whose aspirations to escape the confines of poverty and small town life come into direct conflict with their sense of family responsibility," according to Atlantic notes. "When 16-year-old Billy [Eisenberg] is afforded an opportunity to change schools and move out of town by an unusually attentive young teacher, his family [parents Kristen Johnston and Michael T. Weiss] starts to unravel around him. This raw, emotionally rich world premiere new drama from playwright Lucy Thurber explores the stark reality of how class in America shapes our very image of ourselves."
Without giving too much away, Thurber told Playbill.com, "Scarcity is about the pull between the loyalty you feel for your family and the loyalty you feel towards your own personal dreams."
Stories about American family life are so often focused on the middle class, upper middle class or the rich. Did Thurber go into Scarcity specifically wanting to look at poverty and class, or did the family come first and their "situation" come second?
"I'm not sure how to separate the two," Thurber said. "Scarcity is about a family that is living in poverty. I wanted to write a play about love, loyalty and the culture of poverty in rural America, the family and the scarcity model are intertwined." In the play, the family lives below the poverty line, and accepts welfare.
"My first four plays are about class in America," Thurber said. "There are so many un-seen subcultures in America and I happened to grow up among the rural poor [in western Massachusetts]. I wanted to write stories about the people I loved growing up and the people I left behind in the country."
The play's original title was Innocence is a Sin, "which was a horrible and heavy-handed title," she said, adding, "I changed the title to Scarcity because of this definition: In economics, scarcity is defined as 'a condition of limited resources and unlimited wants and needs.' In other words, society does not have sufficient resources to produce enough to fulfill subjective wants. Alternatively, scarcity implies that not all of society's goals can be attained at the same time, so that trade-offs are made of one good against others."
Thurber's play Stay was presented Off-Broadway last season; her other plays include Where We're Born, Ashville, Killers and Other Family and Monstrosity. She is a member of MCC Playwrights' Coalition, Primary Stages writing group and New Dramatists.
Jackson Gay returns to Atlantic, where she directed the Pulitzer Prize finalist production of Rolin Jones' The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow and Kia Corthron's Master Disaster for the 10x20 one-act festival at Atlantic Stage 2.
The design team features scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Ilona Somogyi, lighting design by Jeff Lyons and sound design by Daniel Baker.
Scarcity plays Tuesday through Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM at Atlantic Theater Company at the Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th Street.
Tickets for main stage productions are $55 and are available by calling Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or at ticketcentral.com.
For more information visit www.atlantictheater.org.