The Latino Theatre Company and The Temblors, a collective consisting of seven Los Angeles-based playwrights, have teamed up to produce Rules of Seconds, a new play by John Pollono world premiering March 23 at the Los Angeles Theater Center.
Directed by Obie Award-winner Jo Bonney, Rules of Seconds is a dark comedic period piece centering on life in the 19th century. It’s 1855 in Boston and life is “governed by an archaic code of dueling,” according to Pollono. “The idea that the slightest infraction between gentlemen was grounds for a challenge to be resolved with pistols, a fight to the death. That ridiculousness of sticking to rules at all costs in order to be a man seems the perfect way to comment on modern culture and politics.”
While set in 1855, it was written with 2017 sensibilities and quirk, along with an eye for the current political climate. According to Bonney, “The mix of characters comes from all strata of society: the privileged elite, the working class, and immigrants from many cultures. It’s interesting to look at American class structure through the eyes of the 19th century and see how it remains relevant today, with the power and money still concentrated, with the few who get to set the rules for the many.”
In Rules of Seconds, we find Nathanial “Wings” Leeds, a sufferer of OCD, challenged to a duel by Boston’s “most dangerous man.” In order to survive this ordeal he enlists the help of his estranged brother, a respected and known duelist.
“Armed duels, honor, integrity, stubbornness, these are all very Trump-like ideas,” said Artistic Director Jose Luis Valenzuela. “We have a main character being relentless and stubborn and we see how in the name of honor and integrity you arm the state and the country. It’s a very funny exploration about these rights.
The production stars Joshua Bitton (HBO’S The Night Of), Ron Bottitta (Superior Donuts at the Geffen), Amy Brenneman (The Leftovers), Leandro Cano (American Falls at Echo Theater Company), Feodor Chin (Macbeth at A Noise Within), Damu Malik (One Night in Miami at Rogue Machine), Matthew Elkins (Pocatello at Rogue Machine), Jamie Harris (AMC’s Turn), Josh Helman (X-Men: Apocolypse), and Jennifer Pollono.
The producing collective, The Temblors, is a group of seven acclaimed Los Angeles-based playwrights pledged to enhance Los Angeles theatre by working on and creating original works at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Each of the seven members is charged with creating and producing a world premiere over a four-year period. At the end of that period the members will step down and pass the collective on to a new group. The goal is to create a cycle of new plays “by and for the people of Los Angeles.”
“We have to do everything we can to encourage and celebrate the voices in L.A.’s theatre community,” said Valenzuela. “This will give us a chance to really focus on and lift up L.A. playwrights. With The Temblors, every year we’ll produce two shows. Multiracial and multicultural shows with all members of the group helping and supporting not only each other as their working on their own plays, but focusing on workshopping one at a time. Working toward the ultimate goal, which is getting that show up and on its feet and ready for an audience.”
Rules of Seconds runs from March 16–April 15 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. For more information, visit TheLATC.org.