Sam Gold, who is directing The Mystery of Love & Sex, had known Bathsheba Doran for several years before they had a chance to collaborate. Referring to her familiarly, Gold told me: “I had known Bash for several years – we met when I was at Juilliard for directing and she was there for playwriting.” Gold said that “I admired her work from the minute she started there” and “I wanted us to do a project together.”
After Doran completed her 2011 play Kin, she and Gold had a meeting. “I thought we were just having coffee to discuss Kin,” Gold recounted. But they discussed other things – The Winter’s Tale, for example. “Bonding over our feelings about Shakespeare made her want me to direct her play.”
Kin went on to receive an acclaimed production at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. “We got to know each other on Kin,” Gold said. “Like the new play, it was personal and domestic.” Their collaboration on Mystery came together quickly. “The second Bash put her pen down,” Gold said, “she sent it to me. I responded to it immediately.”
Gold, who grew up in Westchester and New York City and whose many credits include Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation off-Broadway and The Coward at LCT3, said that Kin treated “a delicate theme but the way Bash told it was bravura. This time, the bravura is in how deep she goes.”
According to Gold, Mystery “is about identity and about how people redefine themselves. The younger characters, Charlotte and Jonny, are discovering their adult identities, and the older characters, Lucinda and Howard, are re-discovering their identities.” The re-discovery of identities, Gold added, becomes a larger issue in the culture as people live longer and are less content to present themselves in static fashion decade after decade.
The casting of Mystery occurred with relative speed. “We did a reading with Diane [Lane] and Tony [Shalhoub], around the time that Tony was finishing Act One here at Lincoln Center last spring,” Gold said. “They were terrific.” As for the younger actors, Gayle Rankin and Mamoudou Athie, Gold commented: “I’ve been a big fan of Gayle for a while. I directed her in a play at Juilliard, when I was resident director there.” He added: “I’d seen Mamoudou perform at Yale, where he went to school, when I did a play up there.”
Mystery opens on March 2; the next day, Gold will be back in rehearsal with Fun Home, the Lisa Kron-JeanineTesori musical, based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, headed for Broadway’s Circle in the Square. That show won numerous awards last season, after an engagement at New York’s Public Theater. “Because Circle in the Square is in-the-round,” Gold said, “we’re totally restaging it. I’ll have my work cut out for me. I’m so happy the production will have a chance to be seen by many more people.”
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.