Steven Pasquale as Isaac, left and Penny Fuller as Nan in Beautiful Child at the Vineyard Theatre
In his twenty-three years of writing plays like Pterodactyls, Raised in Captivity, Eros Trilogy and The Altruists, Nicky Silver has won or been nominated for many awards - from Drama Desk to the Oppenheimer.
Although the Oppenheimer is a very prestigious one, its so ugly I keep it in a closet, he quips.
Known for his arch wit, Silver also walks the dark side, and his new drama, Beautiful Child, starring George Grizzard and Penny Fuller, involves a troubled teacher returning home to a family who struggle to accept and love him again.
The playwright, a self-described terrible shut-in on the Upper Westside, wont say more about the plot, but hes got lots of other up-close-and-personal material to share.
Davida Singer: How did you get into playwriting?
Nicky Silver: I actually didnt think Id be a writer, I thought I would pop out of cakes. No, I thought of acting until I really started writing in college, at NYU. The Experimental Wing gave me a whole collection of things to work with. My writing style differs from play to play, but I tend to work in two veins. Farces alternating with plays that embrace serious subjects. This one is relatively dark, but not compared to a coalmine. Its also very funny.
DS: Would you call your plays gay?
NS: Im not usually described as a gay playwright, but gay people are a part of my landscape. When I started, I decided I didnt want to be marketed that way, and in 2004 I think we dont need that distinction. Its just not all that interesting to me now. In this work, sexual orientation is a given among the characters.
DS: Its almost a given that your plays will go up at the Vineyard.
NS: Its been a long relationship - since 1983 - much to their chagrin. After college, I did plays at the Meisner Theater for a while. Then I sent out Pterodactyls to the Vineyard, and they werent afraid of doing it. I think of the Vineyard as my home. I sent this play to Doug Abel as a friend, and he wanted to do it. The kind of plays I write are frightening to put up because theyre so personal, but Im very comfortable there. Theres even a place I can smoke and no one knows.
For Beautiful Child, I wanted to work with a new director, and Doug gave me a list. I dont know a lot of names, but I liked Terry Kinneys work and ten minutes into a meeting with him I wanted him to do it. We see the play similarly, but were very different people, so he brings a whole other perspective.
DS: Whats the concept behind Beautiful Child?
NS: It really explores a question Ive done before. How do people love someone who functions outside of their moral sphere. I dont write plays that have answers, so I never know, but sometimes I find one. Here? I think I found a possible answer. It suggests the ruthlessness of our need to connect to people.
DS: Whats behind your need to write plays?
NS: I go into it because I like putting plays on. I like going to rehearsal, I like the process and community. But the degree to which I pipe up varies. Sometimes I actually stay away. And I was more daunted than usual by this cast. It was my first time working with all of them - scary, but a lot of fun - though none of the actors would sleep with me.
DS: Can you drop a final hint about what well see and what youd like us to see in Beautiful Child?
NS: The set itself is a living room and it does some tricks. At certain points, theres furniture that floats in black, hopefully. But it is the Vineyard after all, not the Minskoff! Id like people even for a second to question their preconceived notions of right and wrong, and how they deal with them in this country. And then Id like them to feel an all-consuming awe of me.