Northern Stage Play Is Heading to New York

  • From left, Katie Bruestle, Jenni Putney, David Mason and Gordon Clapp appear in a scene from "Trick or Treat," now in production at Northern Stage's Barrette Center for the Arts.

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, January 19, 2018

The Northern Stage team that premiered Trick or Treat in White River Junction a year ago will reunite in January 2019 to bring New Hampshire playwright Jack Neary’s dramedy to an off-Broadway theater for five weeks.

“We knew that it would get done,” Norwich resident and Emmy-winning actor Gordon Clapp, who will reprise the lead role of Johnny Moynihan, said on Thursday. “We just didn’t know what the timetable would be.”

The Northern Stage team, including Artistic Director Carol Dunne and most of the original cast and crew, conducted a reading of Trick or Treat for New York producers last spring. Clapp stars as the patriarch of a dysfunctional family in a fading New England mill town.

“One of the theaters jumped at it right away,” Neary, who lives in Derry, said on Wednesday. “After the reading, Carol huddled with the people from the theater, and in 25 minutes, it was a done deal.”

Trick or Treat, in which the Moynihan family comes apart in a whirlpool of secrets and denial, is the second production to jump from a premiere at Northern Stage to a run off-Broadway. In October 2016, under the direction of Dartmouth College theater professor Peter Hackett (who’s also Dunne’s husband), the company staged Joe Sutton’s drama Orwell in America at the 59E59 Theaters.

Sending productions of new plays to New York is “an affirmation that the artists we nurture and the work we produce are worthy of a broader audience,” Dunne said in a statement. “And we love our donors and supporters feeling the effect of their support on a national level.”

Irene Green, Northern Stage’s director of sales and marketing, said that the New York theater producing Trick or Treat, which she declined to name, will make it’s own announcement later this winter. The Northern Stage announcement coincided with the opening of this weekend’s New Works Now Festival, which began Friday night and continues through Sunday.

As part of New Works Now, Clapp and fellow Northern Stage veteran Susan Haefner will stage a pop-up performance of Neary’s 10-minute play The Duel at the Thyme Cafe in White River Junction tonight at 6.

Trick or Treat wasn’t the first time Clapp, himself a New Hampshire native, and Neary worked together. In 2015, Clapp co-starred in Auld Lang Syne, a Neary two-hander, at the Peterborough (N.H.) Playhouse.

“I wrote (Trick or Treat) for Gordon,” Neary said. “He completely gets me as far as what’s going on in my head. I’ve never worked with somebody who understands my work like he does. A lot of times, the idea goes into the brain of the actor and out again. He gets it. He gets it.”

Clapp, who recently completed concurrent runs at Northern Stage in the one-man show Robert Frost: This Verse Business and in an adaptation of A Doll’s House, said that Neary won him over with Auld Lang Syne, a thriller set in South Boston that mixes comedy and mystery.

“I loved his voice,” Clapp said. “Jack’s hero is Neil Simon. I always loved Neil Simon. If you can get Neil Simon with a Boston accent, it’s gold. … People who saw Auld Lang Syne were surprised how long the play stayed with them. It had a depth to it that a lot of comedy just doesn’t have.

“With Trick or Treat, Jack gave me the first act. I went home and read it, and when he asked me when I wanted to read the next (act), I said, ‘This afternoon is not soon enough.’ ”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.