Producer Evangeline Morphos says that it was the original Long Wharf company of actors who prompted playwright David Rabe (and finally the producers) to bring his The Dog Problem to the Atlantic Theatre. Rabe's comedy starts previews in New York beginning May 8. The show opens May 8 and will run through July 1.
"A lot of the impulse for this move began with the actors in New Haven, " Morphos said. "I've never seen a company of actors so committed to a play and a playwright. They said to David Rabe, 'You've gotta get this moved to New York.'" Morphos added that the one problem about the Dog Problem is the dog. "I have to find a New York dog," Morphos told Playbill On-Line, "and it's gotta be a big mutt. It's the unanswered question about this play."
The Atlantic staging will feature many of the actors that appeared at Long Wharf in 2000. Among those who performed the comedy at Long Wharf were Joe Pacheco, Victor Argo, Andrea Gabriel and David Wike.
Scott Ellis (currently preparing for the pre-Broadway, New Haven run of the Schlitz-Ludwig musical, Tom Sawyer) directed the Long Wharf production and will helm the Atlantic Theatre cast as well.
Playwright Rabe originally wrote the piece as a one-act. It was first titled Corners, then re-named and staged last year as a full length two-act at the Long Wharf Theatre. Rabe is rewriting the Long Wharf version at this time and certain changes—which could ultimately affect casting— are expected. "The play is really about two people," Morphos told Playbill On-Line. "You know how David Rabe works, he writes about guys who operate on the outside, in this case, the fringes of the underworld. One character is in trouble with the mob because, in the course of a one night stand, something happens with the mobsters' dog and the man has a choice—to kill the dog or himself. Things go a step further in the second act, but the point is really about how you try to find focus and values in a morally unsettling world."
Morphos says Rabe has brought out real humor within the darkness of the story's underworld. "That's really what the play is about," she explains, "how you can get caught in the web of events without doing anything. In this very dark world, people stumble along trying to make the right choices. With David's plays, these characters are so perfectly drawn. He really is one of America's great masters , which is a point I often make when I give lectures on American theatre in London."
Producer Morphos' last production at the Atlantic was Kevin Heelan's Distant Fires. Morphos said she and her partner Robert Kravitz (now teamed with Noel Ashman in Atlantic's Dog Problem) plan to keep doing plays with established playwrights like Rabe and new writers like Frank Pudaie and David Weiner.
"I think new plays are out there," Morphos said. "The question is getting them up and planning a theatre with the right contacts. If the play is great, you can almost always find the money for it. It just becomes a matter of time and space, which are the traditional New York issues that everyone is always so frantic about. That's the 'supply and demand.'"
David Rabe was most recently represented on the New York stage by A Question of Mercy at New York Theatre Workshop.
—By Murdoch McBride