Morlan Higgins, Lovensky Jean-Baptiste, and Tinashe Kajese
in Victory
(© Ed Krieger)
Morlan Higgins, Lovensky Jean-Baptiste, and Tinashe Kajese
in Victory
(© Ed Krieger)
Stephen Sachs has fast become the American director of choice for the legendary South African playwright, Athol Fugard. "Athol never attends productions of his plays by other directors, but he saw my production of The Road to Mecca in 2000 and really liked it," says Sachs. Having directed the world premiere of Fugard's Exits and Entrances, which enjoyed successful runs in New York and Los Angeles, Sachs is now taking on Fugard's latest play, Victory, making its U.S. premiere at the Fountain Theatre in L.A., where Sachs is the managing artistic director.

Sachs has found success in engaging an American audience in South African politics, the looming subject behind many of Fugard's works, including Victory. The play follows Vicky and Freddie, two black South Africans who burglarize the home of Lionel, an elderly white South African who formerly employed Vicky's late mother as a housekeeper. Responding to the notion that Fugard's work is too audience-specific, Sachs rebuts, "The brilliance of Athol's writing is that it is specifically about a time and place and yet it is intensely universal."

For Sachs, there is nothing lost in translation for this American premiere. "Liberal, well-meaning whites in South Africa and in the U.S. believe we can have personal relationships with the man who cuts our lawn or the woman who does our laundry. We don't understand why they don't feel the same way. I think that is the big realization that Lionel has. There is much good in the country, but there are moments when we are still reminded of racism, prejudice, and despair."

-- Z.S.

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Craig Spidle and Rob Riley in Cadillac
(© Johnny Knight)
Craig Spidle and Rob Riley in Cadillac
(© Johnny Knight)
"There's a musicality to the language of sales," says playwright Bill Jepsen, whose new play Cadillac is currently receiving its world premiere from Chicago Dramatists. And Jepsen knows what he's talking about, having spent six years in the used car sales business.

"In America, there's a stereotype about salespeople and used car salespeople in particular," says Jepsen, alluding to the usually negative portrayal of people in that profession as little more than con artists. However, his central character, Howard Austin, lives by an admirable moral and ethical code, and truly believes that he is helping his customers and providing good service -- until the sale of a Cadillac on the last selling day of the month challenges his sense of ethics. "There's lots at stake for this one sale for three or four different people," says Jepsen. "And this higher morality that Howard talks about gets put to the test when his own butt is on the line."

Since his play is set in a sales environment, Jepsen is braced for comparisons to David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. "It's unfortunate that there's probably only two popular plays about salespeople in American history," he jokes. "But Cadillac has got a much different voice and story, and I think stands on its own."

-- D.B.

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Stephen Barker Turner, Matt McGrath, and Johanna Day
in The Evildoers
(© Joan Marcus)
Stephen Barker Turner, Matt McGrath, and Johanna Day
in The Evildoers
(© Joan Marcus)
From the very start of David Adjmi's The Evildoers, currently at Yale Repertory Theatre, we are plunged into a landscape of social innuendos and harsh realities that dip and rise around lines of off-hand conversation at an anniversary dinner Jerry and Carol are having with another married couple, Judy and Martin. Among the topics at hand are the added celebratory stones that adorn Carol's engagement ring, which Martin objects to, and the new high definition television Jerry received.

But the story is hardly about possessions, says the playwright; it's about people. "The play is about marriage, which becomes a metaphor for various kinds of connection or disconnection in the world and in life. By bringing these characters into focus, we get inside of another person's life and really humanize it," says Adjmi. "The theater is a place that really can expand our capacity for empathy."

Adjmi is happy that the directorial reins were handed to Rebecca Bayla Taichman, who joined the project as director when it went to the Sundance Theatre Lab in 2006. Having helmed productions of plays such as The Scene, she is no stranger to this kind of multi-faceted dramatic action. "I could not have imagined a more generous, thrilling, incisive director than Rebecca," says Adjmi. "My work is very musical, and she really respects and understands the text as a score. "

-- T.F.