Jon Lipsky: On relationships
Jon Lipsky's new play, "Walking the Volcano," at the Vineyard Playhouse through August 8, has a unique format - one the playwright has never seen used before. Eight short works come together to tell stories about love's mercurial power. Like the facets of a crystal, each playlet examines from a different perspective how a man and woman can love with passionate, but destructive energy.
"I never set out to write a progression of plays," Mr. Lipsky says. The project started with an entry for the Boston Short Play Marathon nearly 10 years ago. He found himself writing about a relatively volatile couple in the first sketch.
The following year he produced another short play for the Boston festival and discovered - to his chagrin - that he had written about very similar characters on the same subject. "Maybe I'm a one-trick pony," he remembers thinking. The third time, he decided to repeat the subject consciously. "Not only did it work," he says. "I found I had a lot to say."
The number of short plays grew to eight. Characters' circumstances differ in each, and their ages and the era change, but the same issues keep coming up. What Mr. Lipsky found was that a single story and dynamic emerge from this kaleidoscope of viewpoints. It offers a universal look at a certain kind of love relationship.
Each of the eight short plays has been performed individually over an eight-year period. And "Walking the Volcano" as a single work has had a workshop reading at Emory University's New Play Festival, and at Boston University, where Mr. Lipsky teaches theater.
"At first I didn't know if I had a first act, where things have to change, and a second act, with a climax and resolution," the playwright says. After seeing it in workshop form, though, Mr. Lipsky became convinced that the play really held up as an evening of theater.
Now in its first full production, Mr. Lipsky says the actors and its director, M.J. Bruder Munafo, have shown him new aspects he hadn't quite seen on paper. The actors do an exceptional job of making their individual characters persuasive while maintaining the thematic connections among the eight sketches. The cast consists of four actors playing eight different sets of couples.
One of the particular pleasures for Mr. Lipsky has been working with Ms. Munafo, the Playhouse's Artistic Director. Despite years of association, it is the first time the two of them have collaborated on a large-scale performance as playwright and director. Her direction, along with the set and costumes, keeps the transitions between stories and characters moving smoothly.