Local libraries set the stage

Playwright Arnold Rabin's play will be featured in a staged reading this Saturday, Nov. 12, at the West Tisbury Library. — File photo by CK Wolfson

Looking for some drama in your life? Two local libraries will be presenting plays this weekend and they represent both faces of the theater mask — one comedy and one drama.

On Saturday, Nov. 12, the West Tisbury Library is sponsoring a staged reading of a new play — a historical drama by summer Vineyard resident and former television producer, Arnold Rabin.

On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13, the Friends of the Vineyard Haven Library have invited members of the Peter H. Luce Play Readers to present a reading of “All in the Timing,” a series of short comic plays by award-winning contemporary playwright David Ives.

Leslie J. Stark, a member of the play readers group, who previously directed a play of Mr. Rabin’s for The Vineyard Playhouse, is directing both plays, but the two productions are not tied together in any other way.

David Ives has written a number of short plays, with one thing in common: They all twist everyday life into absurdly funny situations. “All in the Timing” is the collective name for a group of six 10-to-20-minute plays that are generally presented as a set. The play readers will perform four of them. They range from a vignette in which a hapless man discovers that whatever he says is taken for the opposite, to a very silly play that has Leon Trotsky trying to make sense of the fact that he has a mountaineering axe stuck in his head and, according to the encyclopedia, he’s dead.

The Peter H. Luce Play Readers meet once a week to collectively read plays ranging from classical Greeks and Romans, to Shakespeare, to the work of contemporary playwrights. They have been together since 1997 and are named for one of the founding members who died four years ago. Mr. Stark and some of the play readers are also members of the Friends of the Vineyard Haven Library. When the library added Sundays to their off-season schedule, the group offered to do one of the plays that they had previously read.

According to Mr. Stark, they chose the play quartet for “the fact that they would individually and collectively be guaranteed audience-pleasers.” Says Mr. Stark, “The only thing that the four of them have in common is that they’re all really wacky.” This will be the first in a once-a-month series of Sunday afternoon programming at the library.

“Quartet for a Queen,” which the West Tisbury Library will present at the Howes House, is centered on Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII of England, and her relationships with some of the members of her family. The play is the latest by Mr. Rabin, who spent an illustrious career as a television producer, novelist, and playwright, among other things. His work has won numerous awards and been included in anthologies.

Of his latest play, Mr. Rabin says, “I did a lot of research but I did not want it to be a history lesson. I wanted the woman and her relationship with her brother, her father, her sister, and her husband to be uppermost. I call it a dysfunctional family. All families fight, but they happened to have fought about religion and the history of their lives. Essentially what I tried to do is tell a family story about great historical figures.”

Mr. Stark, who is very enthusiastic about the play, says, “The great thing about Shakespeare’s history plays and other great history plays is you don’t have to know about the history. The play is about people and the relationships, and the facts come out in the course of the play.”

This will be the first time that Mr. Rabin’s play has been presented to an audience. The staged reading will star Treather Gassman, Leslie J. Stark, Brooke Hardman, Jessica Buckley, Chris Roberts, and Brian Ditchfield.

“Quartet for a Queen,” Saturday, Nov. 12, 6:30 pm, Howes House, West Tisbury. Free; donations accepted benefit West Tisbury Library Foundation.

“All in the Timing” — A series of short plays, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2:30 pm, Vineyard Haven Library. Free.