American book clubs officially date back as far as 1726 when Benjamin Franklin formed a literary society, but Karen Zacarias has chosen to focus on their recent revival in The Book Club Play, which is making its world premiere at The Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland (and which will be seen later this year at the Berkshire Theatre Festival).
As a member of a book club that she started with friends 10 years ago, Zacarias knows firsthand that the groups are often about non-literary matters, such as “dinners, wine, and making sure that you get together with friends. It’s always so rewarding, and yet at the same time there can be a lot of conflict involved.” The dramatic tension of the piece centers on a new group member who was not approved under the usual vetting process, and the arc of the play follows the club from February to December and their discussions about books ranging from Moby Dick to Tuesdays with Morrie.
“The show will appeal to those who haven’t read a single book that is discussed in the show,” says Zacarias. The Book Club Play is about, “text and community, and we have all experienced those things,” she says. “It’s also about power, and how every marriage and friendship is still a power relationship.” Moreover, because the play is written like a documentary, the characters are aware that they are being watched and that self-awareness causes changes in the group that Zacarias says are both “very funny and very devastating.”