The comedy-drama Immoral Imperatives which premiered in Chicago in mid-September, marked playwright Jeffrey Sweet's 10th theatrical production at the Victory Gardens Theatre, marking an unprecedented 23-year affiliation with company. Now that well-received play may have a future as auspicious as the author's past. Tony-winning actress Judith Ivey is now attached to the project, which has been undergoing a series of private readings in order to raise interest in a New York production.
According to Sweet, the next private reading happens Dec. 10 at the Dramatists Guild, with Ivey, Treat Williams, Harris Yulin and Nancy Ringham taking part. Victory Gardens' artistic director Dennis Zacek appeared in the Chi-town world premiere of Immoral Imperatives, which opened the company's 2001-02 season Sept. 24-Oct. 28. Zacek co starred with Tim Grimm, Kristine Thatcher and Linda Reiter, under Calvin MacLean's direction.
Fans of Sweet's 1998 hit, Flyovers (which producer Suzanne Golden is still hoping to produce Off Broadway in the months ahead), may recall when Iris, the financially-strapped waitress, made a passing reference to a recent trip to visit her father Dale, who was "shacking up" with old friends in Florida. The reference is fully fleshed out as the premise for Immoral Imperatives, set in the Florida Keys.
According to production notes, "When a couple of homesick Cubans pull a gun and relieve Dale of his houseboat, he needs to find a new place to live. At first, Dale's former flame Liz lets him stay with her, but after a few days, Liz asks Dale to vacate when her 'other ex' announces his imminent arrival. So Dale accepts the offer of a room from two old friends newly arrived in the Florida Keys — a retired university professor named Hank (Zacek), and Hank's younger wife, Terri. As it turns out, Terri is perhaps not quite as ready to settle down as her husband, and it helps to keep a sense of humor when uncomfortable circumstances spark unusual responses from all involved."
Author Sweet began his affiliation with VG with a long-running 1979 production of Porch. Sweet's most recent plays are The Action Against Sol Schumann (recently nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association's New Play Award), Bluff (which has been optioned by Georgia Buchanan for a New York production), Flyovers (1998 Jeff Award, Best New Play), Ties, The Value of Names (due to be revived next season at NYC's 78th Street Theatre Lab) and With and Without. His musical version of I Sent a Letter to My Love (written with Melissa Manchester) is scheduled for North Shore Music Theatre outside of Boston in 2002. (That mounting will likely be directed by Patricia Birch, who staged it Off-Broadway, orchestrated by Doug Besterman and feature Cass Morgan, Steven Bogardus and Bethe [sic] Austin). Sweet's book on playwriting, "The Dramatist's Toolkit," widely available, is cherished by writers seeking to add an extra jolt of craft to their works. Sweet is a member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble. He's also been commissioned by TheatreWorks USA to write a courtroom drama based on the true story of 1945 Court Martial of three WACS. A draft of Alice Young Takes a Stand has been completed, and the show may end up being a co-production of TheatreWorks USA and Victory Gardens.
— By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones