John Guare is one of our great playwrights—but also one of the hardest to categorize. If you know him from The House of Blue Leaves or Six Degrees of Separation (which became a film starring Philly boy Will Smith in 1993), you’ll have a sense of his brilliantly idiosyncratic structures, the wit and pith of his dialogue and his ability to bring characters to life. But he wrote many other plays, covering a wide range of styles and topics, that are not produced nearly as often as they should be.
So, hats off to EgoPo Classic Theater, which is pulling off the theatrical coup of the Philly theater season: mounting Guare’s Lydie Breeze trilogy, a fascinating historical panorama of an American utopian society. Even better, Guare will be working with the company as they remount and revise these works, which he began 35 years ago and has never seen staged all together. Distinguished composer Cynthia Hopkins is also involved.
Director Lane Savadove says he was drawn to Lydie Breeze because the three-part production is different in scale from anything he’d read in American theater. “[The plays are] also different from Guare’s other works. They’re epic, but also personal. There’s a real lyricism to them. We see an evolution of American history on multiple levels.”
And how did it come to be that Guare is involved? “I worked with him nearly 20 years ago at the Guthrie Theater [in Minneapolis], and at that time I read everything of his I could find. When I expressed an interest in doing the trilogy together, he said, ‘If you can make it happen, they’re yours.’ We’ve been committed to it ever since. It just took 16 years to get the funding!”
Guare, responding by email, is obviously excited about the project, too. “I never thought I’d see my three Lydie Breeze plays performed together in one fell swoop as always intended, but then I hadn’t counted on the bravado, skill and daring of EgoPo and Lane Savadove. For me to reexamine these plays tracing the lives of a group of young dreamers from 1865 to 1895 in the light of today is a playwright’s dream. Having seen Lane’s gorgeous production of The Seagull, I know Lydie Breeze is in the best of hands.”
Lydie Breeze will be presented in three parts over the span of five months, with the first taking place January 31 through February 11. You can see them piece by piece or take in the whole shebang during a string of marathons in April and May.