Packawallop Productions produces the play, directed by Scott Ebersold, Aug. 8-24 at the Bottle Factory Theater.
According to production notes, the story "begins in post 9/11 New York City. A fateful encounter with a heartbroken French chanteuse at the Cock and a mysterious phone call send Danny on a trip to Paris to look for his missing lover, X. Only Paris is not how he remembers it. Cryptic postcards, sexual encounters and Dante's 'Inferno' collide in his search to discover the truth about his past, present and future."
"It has a dreamlike quality and it's very poetic," director Ebersold told Playbill On-Line. "I would say it's haunting and jarring. Alex, the playwright, writes with a quality that is sexy and lusty; they are driven by passion."
Ebersold said Morales began writing the play before the events of Sept. 11, 2001. It was to be a work about the expatriate experience and how you find your true American self only when you leave the country. After the tragedy of 9/11, however, the play became about something else.
"It's really about Danny discovering his true identity, and coming to terms with who he really is," Ebersold explained. "He has to accept that in order to let the greatest love of his life survive, he has to let it go. I think that's something a lot of people can identify with." The genesis of the play was a libretto for a 10-minute musical Morales wrote for Raw Impressions Music Theater in October 2001.
"We were all commissioned to write 10 minute musical pieces about the city," Morales told Playbill On-Line. "With 9/11 weighing on my mind, I thought of Dante and how he followed Beatrice, the woman he loved, after her death on a journey that spanned the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. I ended up writing a duet for the two of them.
"In January 2002, I was commissioned by INTAR to participate in an evening of solo work about 9/11. Not knowing what to do, I returned to the idea of Dante's Beatrice and she became a secretary who perished in the Word Trade Center whose ghost appears to Danny, a young man wandering a post-9/11 New York. Both characters ended up as the two main characters in what has become expat/inferno, with Danny becoming a heartbroken figure fleeing New York in search of his missing lover, X, whom he believes to be in Paris. Beatrice, on the other hand, split off into two characters — a Parisienne living in New York and a New Yorker trapped in Paris — both equally heartbroken and intricately linked to the tragedy of 9/11 . . . as is Danny as the audience discovers by the end of the play."
Morales observed, "Dante seemed to me a timely way to view grief in light of a large tragedy such as 9/11. In 'The Divine Comedy,' Beatrice loved Dante so much that she was worried his grief over her death had derailed Dante from his 'true path.' She crosses Heaven, Purgatory and Hell to put Dante on a journey that is ultimately his salvation. I tried to respond with a play that examined heartbreak and grief and the way the experience of such emotions is ultimately an enlightening one. Danny's search for X becomes the search for himself."
The cast includes Drew Cortese, Judith Delgado, Mark H. Dold, Jason Griffin, Polly Lee and Nathan M. White.
Morales' plays have been developed and presented at HERE, INTAR, The Public Theater, South Coast Repertory and Mabou Mines. His play, sebastián, was recently given the Whitfield Cook Award and he is currently working on a commission from The Public Theater.
Director Ebersold is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and the Hypothetical Theater Company.
Designers are Jo Winiarski (set), Jessica Watters (costume), Greg Emetaz (lighting) and Nathan Lively (sound).
Tickets are $15. The Bottle Factory Theater is at 195 E. 3rd Street between Avenues A and B. Fringe shows are presented in scattered time and dates. For information, call (212) 279-4488. Visit www.fringenyc.org.