The world premiere of the new play "James Gallagher" starring Emmy Award-winning actor and Nantucket's own John Shea is in its final few days at the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket (TWN).
The production has been a new experience for the Theatre Workshop team. Not only is it a brand-new play and island audiences are the very first to see it on stage, but TWN also negotiated for the rights to host the world premiere of the production, and brought the playwright in from Los Angeles to Nantucket to be in the room for the entire rehearsal process.
"It's hard to describe 'James Gallagher' because I've never really read a play quite like it," Shea said. "But let's just say, when people ask me this, I say it's kind of like Eugene O'Neill meets Woody Allen. It's 'A Long Day's Journey Into Night' and it's laced with comedy, but it also has 'Wait Until Dark' like a thriller aspect to it that underlines it in a very real way. Without saying anything about the play itself, I'll just tell you that what I loved about it is it's full of surprises."
The play by Valerie Curtin explores the fraught relationship of a father and son, himself a once aspiring actor, who has grown up in the shadow of both his stage legend father’s fame and his gigantic ego. Curtin weaves their narrative through twists and turns that involve mistaken identity, ex-lovers, a serial killer on the loose, unexpected grace and the greatest performance of their lives.
"There are four characters," Shea continued. "It takes place in a contemporary time in an apartment in New York. People come in that you don't expect and they do things you're never going to anticipate. The play is completely engaging, completely charming, but kind of leaves you breathless at the end."
Besides Shea, the cast of "James Gallagher" includes Jamison Stern, Mary Seidel and Chris Meyer. Meyer and Shea last worked together on Shea’s 2017 film "Grey Lady" in which Meyer played the role of Perry Morrison.
"James Gallagher" is directed by TWN’s artistic director, Justin Cerne.
“It’s a very interesting process directing a new play and getting to be the first director to bring this story to life,” Cerne said. “Working directly with the author is a very special opportunity. Having Valerie here on Nantucket and in the rehearsal room has proven invaluable and given me and the actors much greater insight into the characters and the author’s intentions.”
Curtin is an accomplished screenwriter, with writing credits that include The Mary Tyler Moore, Best Friends, the 1992 film Toys, among others. Curtin and and her then-husband Barry Levinson were nominated for an Academy Award (in the category of Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen) for ...And Justice for All (1979) starring Al Pacino.
"James Gallagher" is on stage at Theatre Workshop of Nantucket's venue at Bennett Hall on Centre Street through Saturday night. Buy tickets here.