If there's a soul adrift — physically or spiritually — in the Gem State, chances are good he sprang from the fertile pen of Samuel D. Hunter.
Commissioned new plays from the Boise-reared Hunter are popping up in New York and at regional theatres all over the country, particularly on the West Coast where theatregoers saw the world premiere of Hunter's The Few at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in October 2013. 2014 is fast shaping up to be the year of the Hunter with the world premiere of A Great Wilderness having begun performances at Seattle Repertory Theatre Jan. 17, followed at the end of March by Rest at Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory — while Hunter's award-winners The Whale and A Bright New Boise are scheduled for a new publishing March 24.
Apart from their Idaho setting, the plays have some thematic threads in common — most notably the intricately drawn characters who could take their proper place in a great cosmic lost and found: Charlie The Whale's 600-pound writing instructor holed up in his apartment trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter; Gerald, the 91-year old Alzheimer's patient who has escaped his shuttering nursing home in Rest; and Walt, who, late in life, is coming to an uncomfortable reckoning about the conversion therapy he has been practicing for so many years out in the woods of A Great Wilderness.
"Synge said plays should be fully flavored like a berry or a nut," said Martin Benson, who directed the West Coast premiere of The Whale at SCR last season and who will direct SCR's Rest. "Everything I've read of Sam's, there's sort of a berry or nut, but the flavors within it are also piquant and interesting. The people are so vivid."
And to that previous list of people who adrift, you can add one other person, said Benson. That would be the playwright himself.
"He virtually lives nowhere," Benson said. "I know he and his husband are buying an apartment in New York, but he's been attending the rehearsals of all his plays, so he's been staying in resident housing in San Diego and Seattle."
The playwright himself is a sharp and well-spoken man who trained at NYU, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and Julliard and now lives in New York but also refers to himself as a Pacific Northwest playwright. Although he has been on the record as stating that elements of his plays are drawn from his own life, Hunter is by no means working out demons or trumpeting social or political agendas.
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