Get ready to laugh a lot, sigh a little and, most importantly, breathe deep. The Wilbury Group mounts the Rhode Island premiere of Duncan MacMillan’s LUNGS from October 14-27 – and this quietly powerful, two-person play just might knock the wind out of you.
“LUNGS is a comedy about a young couple’s debate, desire and attempt to bring a child into a world of advanced global anxiety, erratic weather and social unrest,” explains director Steve Kidd. “Its humor is matched by such personal, truthful and beautiful dialogue that speaks to the level of love the two feel for each other and the fear they have with starting a family and losing it all. It is the most stunningly private play I have ever read.”
LUNGS marks Kidd’s directorial debut, though he’s no stranger to the stage. The resident Equity actor at Pawtucket’s Gamm Theatre has performed and taught theater for years. He first worked with the Wilbury Group’s artistic director Josh Short at the Gamm, and approached him with the idea of collaborating on LUNGS after reading the script this spring. Kidd notes, “I don’t think I would have jumped into the role of the director without such belief in the brilliance of this play, the relevance it has to our social/political society and environment, and the innovation it showcases on a theatrical level.”
Following the Wilbury Group’s rip-snorting, large scale production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson this summer, Short welcomed the challenge of an intimate play like LUNGS – “technically simple, but emotionally complex,” as he puts it. “It’s such a beautiful play that courageously deals with so many of the questions confronting every generation, and Steve’s commitment to staying true to what the play is about and bringing those questions to light should be an inspiration to directors everywhere,” Short says.
The young couple in LUNGS grapples with tough questions indeed. How can you be a responsible citizen when society is a mess? How can you save the planet when your daily existence is part of the problem? How do you make an educated, rational choice to have children while knowing that, as the woman in the play points out, “they become their own grown up people and they think their own thoughts and they buy their own clothes and they leave home and they hate you?” And how do you push past all the potential problems of a relationship to do these things together?
The play’s unnamed hero (Jed Hancock-Brainerd) and heroine (Rachel Dulude) try their best. They ride bikes, they recycle, and they “support the smaller coffee shops against the larger chains.” But hey, they’re only human. So they also make mistakes, scream obscenities at each other and lose their bearings. “Equally as compelling as the story itself is the way in which it is told,” remarks Kidd. “It’s a play that has no scene changes, no significant lighting changes or costume changes, no furniture or props, no mime, and yet we spend an entire lifetime with these two characters as we travel through time in an innovative, convention-breaking way.”
A relative newcomer to the local theatre scene, the Wilbury Group is fast establishing itself as one to watch – closely and often. Short founded the company after the birth of his first daughter, in the hopes of creating opportunities for himself and other actors that still allowed for time with family. Impressed by shows at the Gamm, Trinity Rep and Elemental, he strived to bring together artists from these and other area theatres. He says, “We’re committed to challenging ourselves and our audiences with the productions we choose, and I think that in a way similar to how Alias Stage/the Gamm came to be, we’ve risen because our audiences appreciate that challenge.”
LUNGS presents audiences with a modern, minimalist look at age-old issues. While its IKEA shopping, liberal leaning characters may seem specific to these times, their struggle to find their place, make a difference and do the right thing is timeless.