MCC Theater produces the world premiere of Talbott's play, which was selected by late Tony-winning playwright Arthur Laurents (and a committee) as the inaugural winner of the Laurents-Hatcher Award in February. The honor was endowed by Laurents and named for Laurents and his late partner Tom Hatcher.
Tony Award winner Walter Bobbie (Venus in Fur, Chicago) directs the production that began previews Sept. 8 and is scheduled to run through Oct. 22.
The four-person cast features Groff (Spring Awakening, Deathtrap, "Glee") as playwright Danny Larsen, alongside Rutina Wesley ("True Blood," The Vertical Hour) as an actress who plays his "front" after he chooses a nom de plume, Eddie Kaye Thomas (The Diary of Anne Frank, Bachelorette, "American Pie") as Danny's partner and Will Rogers (Unnatural Acts, When the Rain Stops Falling) as Danny's best friend.
"The idea itself came out of a conversation with a friend of mine," Talbott told Playbill magazine in a September feature. "In writing it, I remembered an argument I had in grad school, and that became one of the play's first moments of conflict. It was an argument about how we talk to each other, but it was also an argument about 'If I am able to empathize with your pain — things that happened in your life because of circumstances in mine — doesn't that give me a right to tell your story?' Danny Larsen makes an ethically wobbly decision to promote his play, and my play is about the consequences of that decision."
Check out Playbill.com's video feature with the cast.
According to MCC Theater, "Shaleeha G'ntamobi's stirring new play about an alcoholic black mother and her card sharp son trying to get out of the projects has just been accepted into the nation's preeminent theater festival. Trouble is, Shaleeha G'ntamobi doesn't exist, except in the imagination of wannabe-playwright Danny Larsen, who created her as a kind of affirmative-action nom-de-plume. But a nom-de-guerre may prove more useful as the lies pile up, shaky alliances are forged, and everyone dear to Danny must decide whether or not to run for cover as the whole thing threatens to blow up in his lily white face."
A working actor and unproduced playwright, Talbott played David Frost in the U.S. regional premiere of Frost/Nixon and appeared on Broadway in the revival of Sly Fox, as well as the first New York revival of Laurents' Home of the Brave. Scripts vying for the Laurents-Hatcher Award were judged "blind"; the selection committee was not given the writers' names in the process.
Talbott has penned For Nate and Molly and Tender, plays seen in the student Yale Cabaret. His recent plays include twelve twenty-five and Elliot Yagovich. He also co-wrote Critical Moment, a two-hander, with 2010 Tony nominee Stephen Kunken. Under the title Festival Play, The Submission was a semi-finalist for the 2010 O'Neill Playwrights Conference. Laurents (Gypsy, West Side Story, "The Way We Were") presented Talbott with the Laurents-Hatcher prize $50,000 (plus $100,000 to MCC) earlier this year. Laurents died weeks later at the age of 93.
The production team includes Ryan Rumery (sound designer/co-composer with Christian Frederickson), Darrel Malonye (projection design), David Weiner (lighting designer), Anita Yavich (costume designer), David Zinn (scenic designer) and Timothy R. Semon (stage manager). Casting is by Telsey + Company.
Visit mcctheater.org. The Lucille Lortel Theatre is located at 121 Christopher Street.