LCT has since produced some of his other memorable plays including the even-longer-running Six Degrees of Separation. And he is co-Executive Editor of Lincoln Center Theater Review. Chaucer in Rome which was presented in the Newhouse in 2001, has his trademark mix of absurdist humor, offbeat characters and thought-provoking drama.
To direct this New York premiere, we welcomed back Nicholas Martin, who staged LCT's acclaimed revival of The Time of the Cuckoo last spring. Martin, whose superb production of John's play Bosoms and Neglect was a highlight of Signature Theater's all-Guare season, also staged an earlier version of Chaucer in Rome in the summer of 1999 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
For LCT's premiere, we had a wonderful cast which included three actors seen in earlier LCT shows: Polly Holliday (The Time of the Cuckoo), Bruce Norris (An American Daughter) and Jon Tenney (The Heiress), joined by the terrific actors Dick Latessa (Cabaret), Carrie Preston (The Tempest) and Lee Wilkof (Kiss Me Kate). Chaucer in Rome was designed by Alexander Dodge (sets), Michael Krass (costumes), Donald Holder (lighting) and Mark Bennett (original music and sound).
If the zany doings of The House of Blue Leaves were set in motion on the day the Pope came to New York in 1965, then Chaucer in Rome is, at least in part, about what happens when some New Yorkers come to see the Pope in 1999.
It's 'Holy Year' and tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims have descended on Vatican City -- among them Dolo and Ron Shaughnessy from Sunnyside, Queens. You may remember Ron as a character from Blue Leaves -- the rebellious young son who went AWOL from the Army. In this new play, he is now middle-aged with a son of his own named Pete, an art historian studying at the American Academy in Rome on a 2-year fellowship.
Pete is not happy to see his parents -- two of the reasons I fled America -- but he's got more pressing concerns: Matt, his best friend at the Academy, has developed skin cancer from the toxic paints he uses. Pete struggles to convince Matt to find a new means of self-expression, and latches onto an idea after seeing the teeming masses of religious pilgrims around town: "The confessional! The last frontier. The place where art begins." Ultimately, what begins as an innocently playful idea creates profound changes in the lives of all of the play's main characters.