Theater : Om My God! Michael Domitrovich’s Monday Night Special
Photo courtesy of Vineyard Playhouse
A mantra of oms lies at the heart of "Lotus Feet," a play by Michael Domitrovich certain to pack the Vineyard Playhouse on Monday, Aug. 22, for a staged reading in the Monday Night Specials series. Son of Paul and Kathy Domitrovich, owners of Lola's Restaurant in Oak Bluffs, the play's 28-year-old author grew up on the Vineyard.
"Mr. D" has met with remarkable success in the competitive world of New York theatre and now is building a career in TV on the West Coast. He helped create the just-finished pilot for a new reality series making the rounds in Los Angeles at cable networks like Bravo. Mr. D hopes to play the show's Zen Master chef himself, who will dispense advice to a clutch of lost souls as he teaches them how to cook, if the program is picked up and airs.
Working at Lola's since he was 12, the wash-ashore shouldn't find a restaurant show to be much of a stretch. As an actor who earned his chops growing up in Vineyard Playhouse programs, Mr. D studied at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts after graduating from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School at the tender age of 15.
His mother reports with understandable pride that her son served as salutatorian of his class. She says he used fairy tales in his graduation speech to emphasize the need for Vineyard kids to leave the Island and experience the wider world, even if they eventually decided to come back.
After earning his BFA in Cinema Studies at Tisch, Mr. D had a collection of short plays, titled "Sticky," produced off-Broadway. "Artf…ers," followed in 2007, then the short plays "Real World Experience" and "On Island," which were produced as "Summer Shorts."
In addition, Mr. D co-authored "Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile's Hunger for Home," a NY-Times-reviewed memoir, with Cuban-American playwright Eduardo Machado. Island theatre fans will especially remember "On Island." He brought it from New York to an outdoor State Beach performance in Oak Bluffs, so his grandmother and parents could see the off-Broadway production without abandoning Lola's during the high season. Mr. D's rock musical, "Breach," premiered in Denver, Colo., in May.
First performed off-Broadway in 2010, "Lotus Feet" is described by playwright's database Doollee.com as the story of a Yuppie woman from Massachusetts who relocates with her boyfriend to Brooklyn. All hell breaks loose in a yoga class taught by the woman's close friend.
Not only does next week's Monday Night Specials reading of "Lotus Feet" pay tribute to this talented young man's accomplishments, but he returns the compliment, in particular to The Vineyard Playhouse Artistic Director MJ Bruder Munafo. It's no wonder, since as a youngster he participated in so many Playhouse programs like the Haunted House and a production of "Sweeney Todd."
"Regarding MJ, I have such respect for her experience, her knowledge, her taste and her dedication," Mr. D wrote in an email earlier this week. "She and The Playhouse have kept a steady pulse of high culture and performance beating through the Vineyard for as long as I've been [t]here.
"I walked into the Playhouse the other day and saw MJ, and I felt completely at home, like a Teenprov rehearsal was about to start," says Mr. D. "But then she took me upstairs, and I entered the theater for the first time in a different capacity, not as an actor, but as a writer and director. This was a profound moment for me."
Mr. D comes from a deeply loyal Greek-Croatian family. In 2009, he summoned his mother and father to Long Island to help him run the Montauk Yacht Club. He was working there as an executive chef to learn more about the restaurant business in preparation for writing about it. The SOS arrived not long after Mr. and Mrs. Domitrovich had closed Lola's and retired from the restaurant business.
When Mr. and Mrs. Domitrovich unexpectedly found themselves reopening Lola's in mid-season last year, the busy and successful playwright came home to the Island to return the favor and aid his parents in a time of crisis. He spent three weeks helping them get the restaurant running smoothly again before returning to Los Angeles.
Reinforcements came from the Domitrovich extended family on-Island and a retinue of loyal former employees.
The Monday Night Specials setting is particularly appropriate for Mr. D's return home professionally to the Island that nurtured him. Ms. Munafo, with help from her husband Paul and a talented staff, including Artistic Associate Joann Green Breuer, director most recently of "Tennessee Williams: Original Acts," has fostered new dramatic work for nearly 10 years.
"Many of our readings have included celebrities, and that is a nice benefit of asking actors for just a one-day commitment," Ms. Munafo says of the Monday Night Specials, sponsored in recent years by the Liman Foundation. Among the distinguished playwrights whose work has been presented are Carol Rocamora, James Lapine, the late Jon Lipsky, and Robert Brustein.
The late Spalding Gray performed at a Special, later bringing his fabled monologues to The Playhouse for weeklong runs.
"It's very informal, very informative, and everyone seems to love them," Ms. Munafo says. "The readings are usually followed by a Q&A session with the writer and director; and then a brief reception in the lobby."
After writers and directors submit ideas for readings, Ms. Munafo reads all the work, sometimes with assistance from readers.
"We get many more submissions than there are Mondays," the longtime artistic director says. "In recent times, a key element for selection has been a tie to the Island in some way for the participants. The subject matter is diverse and eclectic. Many of the roles are cast with local actors of all backgrounds."
In the case of "Lotus Feet," the next installment in the Monday Night Specials series, good karma and oms will abound.
"Lotus Feet," Monday, Aug. 22, time TBA, The Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven. 508-696-6300; vineyardplayhouse.org.