When the members of Pleasantville’s Axial Theater began looking for a topic for their spring mainstage production, they turned to the topical.
“It” was money.
The result is “For the Love of Money: An Evening of Monologues About Our Romance with Money,” starting previews next Thursday and opening May 15 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Pleasantville.
Meyer teaches actors using monologues.
“They’re a great learning tool,” he says. “You learn how to work with words by yourself in an imaginary way and connect them.”
Axial playwrights wrote scripts that were read by a committee and then shaped by the company.
“It’s kind of a magical thing, how you put an evening together,” Meyer says. “How things fit together, the actors that are right for the part, and the order of show. It has been exciting on so many levels.”
Meyer enthusiasm borders on the evangelical — it might be possible to get a tan from the energy he exudes — but even he knows that two years of headlines about money might make an evening of monologue on the subject a hard sell.
The monologues aren’t about dollar signs, Meyer says. They’re about people.
“When we’re talking about money, is it money that we’re really talking about?” he asks. “Money is the commerce of these pieces, but clearly what is going on are a lot of other things underneath that.
“It’s people’s relationship to money, control, fear, the way money plays out in relationships, power, and love.”
It’s life seen through the prism of currency.
Axial — a group that has been creating new theater in its Pleasantville laboratory for more than a decade — is stretching the monologue form with this production, adding context by putting other actors into the frame.
When Gail Greenstein plays a coach giving a rip-roaring halftime speech to her girls basketball team — in Jess Dicky’s monologue, “The Currency of Youth”— there will be a team sitting in front of her.
Greenstein calls the prospect of monologues “terrifying.”
“The bad news is there’s no one to play off of,” she says. “The good news is there’s no one else to mess up.”
Her monologue is five pages of text on a topic with which she’s not familiar.
“I have no sports background,” she says. “But I had lunch with two friends who were women’s sports coaches, so I could ask them questions.”
She’s also inspired, she says, by Sue Sylvester, the hard-charging cheerleading coach Jane Lynch plays on TV’s “Glee.”
When Ryan Mallon delivers his mostly autobiographical monologue — about a series of encounters with Hector, the guy from Enterprise Rent-a-Car who comes to pick him up, repeatedly — company members will help to add a level of reality with props and their presence.
Mallon says his misadventures with Hector came to the page quite easily.
“It started out at 16 pages,” he says. “Now, it’s nine.”
Meyer, who directs that piece, says it ends up being a sort of quest, joking that music from “Man of La Mancha” might be fitting: Mallon and his trusty squire, Hector.
Other monologues were directed by Rachel Jones, Laura Credidio and Meyer.
Heather Nicolson plays June Halston in “The Negotiation,”?Matt Hoverman’s monologue that starts the evening.
June is in her bedroom, giving herself a pep talk as she prepares to negotiate the salary offer she’s about to get.
Working on a monologue means working without a net, she says.
“It’s a different animal than being up there with other people. You still need to do your homework and hopefully not go up in a billow of smoke, but if you do, there are people who can save you. But I like the fear factor of the monologue.”
Memorizing all those lines is a constant battle, says Nicolson, a California native and relatively recent transplant from Denver.
“I’ve been acting ever since I was 8 years old and still, every time I get a script, I’m like ‘This is impossible! There’s no way it’s going to happen.’ But through reputation and the ancient gods of theater, the lines come.”
The venue, a church hall with a vaulted ceiling, will take on a different look for this different-sort-of-monologue evening: The hall will be divided into separate playing areas, a sort of moveable feast for these short pieces, the longest of which is 15 minutes.
There will be live music between the monologues, written and performed by Gus Zucco.
“It’s going to be much more dynamic,”?Meyer says. “It won’t feel like an evening of monologues.”
“For the Love of Money: An Evening of Monologues About Our Romance with Money”
When: Weekends, May 13 through 23. 8 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sundays.
Where: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 8 Sunnyside Ave., Pleasantville.
Tickets: $20, $15 for students and seniors. Tickets for May 13 and 14 “previews” art $15. Tickets for May 15 gala reception and show are $45 (at 914-286-7680).
Call: 212-868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.
See an excerpt
We’ll soon upload a short excerpt of Ryan Mallon’s “I Wanna Go Home.”
- “RSVP” by Katie Atcheson, directed by Laura Credidio. Set in the present at Bloomingdale’s with Aisling Mulhern as Megan.
- “The Currency of Youth” by Jess Dicky, directed by Laura Credidio. Set in the present in The Jerome High School girls locker room with Gail Greenstein as Coach Starr.
- “The Pitch” by Carol Mark, directed by Laura Credidio. Set in a priest’s office in the present, featuring Mark Gorham.
- “The Floo” by Tony Howarth, directed by Laura Credidio, set in the present and featuring Ryan Mallon.
- “Calculus” by Howard Meyer, directed by Rachel Jones. Set in the basement bookkeeper’s office of a greeting card shop in Yorktown. With Anne Lilley as Mary Anne Malamud.
- “The Negotiation” by Matt Hoverman, directed by Howard Meyer. Set tonight in a bedroom not so very far away. With Heather Nicolson as June Halston.
- “Frugal Bastard” by John Kuebler, directed by Howard Meyer. Set in the Great Recession (Now), in the American West, with Ryan Shams as Man.
- “Rent Stabilized” by Linda Giuliano, directed by Howard Meyer. Set somewhere in the near future in a rent-stabilized NYC?apartment, with Ward Riley as Man.
- “I Wanna Go Home” written and performed by Ryan Mallon and directed by Howard Meyer. Set in 2010, but mostly 2009 in Westchester.
- “The Interview” by Gabrielle Fox, directed by Rachel Jones. With Anne Guilian as Brenda Land and set in her bedroom.
- “Calling to You” by Linda Giuliano, directed by Rachel Jones. Set here, with Ann Guilian as Woman.
Photos by Mark Vergari/The Journal News: Top, among the Axial Theater company members in “For the Love of Money” are, from left: Ryan Mallon, Heather Nicolson, Howard Meyer and Gail Greenstein. Next: Heather Nicolson in “The Negotiation.”