The Contemporary American Theater Festival, held each year in Shepherdstown, West Virinia is one of the Washington area’s favorite out of town summer festivals. This year’s season, just announced, will feature world premieres by Bess Wohl and Johnna Adams, a new Neil LaBute play about secrets between siblings, a story about an interrogation of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, and a play by clinical psychologist Bob Clyman about two mothers raising extraordinarily gifted children in a high-stakes competitive atmosphere.
The five plays will run in rotating repertory on the campus of Shepherd University from July 6 to 29, 2012.
The Princess Grace Award-winning Adams’ play, Gidion’s Knot, is a story of a 5th-grade boy whose inexplicable behavior prompts a mother and a teacher to confront each other and themselves to find an explanation. Wohl’s Barcelona begins with a drunken one-night stand with an American woman and a Spanish stranger becomes a dangerous adventure which ultimately challenges the concept of global borders.
LaBute, the author of Fat Pig and reasons to be pretty, both of which played subsequently at Studio Theatre, brings a new story to the CATF for the second year in a row. His play, In a Forest, Dark and Deep, is about two siblings, one a College President and the other a jobbing carpenter, who are cleaning out the possessions left behind by a tenant in a cabin one of them owns. Among the possessions they discover is an incriminating photo, which unleashes a tsunami of recriminations. In a Forest, Dark and Deep debuted on London’s West End last year; the Guardian’s Michael Billington said, “in this highly entertaining, 100-minute two-hander [LaBute] pulls the rug from under our feet so often that we end up feeling breathless.”
Captive, Evan Wiener’s play about a Mossad Agent who confronts Eichmann, is derived from Peter Malkin’s memoir “Eichmann in My Hands”. Malkin was part of the team which swept Eichmann, who had been in charge of transporting Jews to the death camps in Nazi Germany, off the streets of Buenos Aires and brought him to Israel for trial and eventual execution. The play, which the Boston Globe’s Dan Aucoin called an “uneven but eventually absorbing new drama,” examines the confrontation between the self-justifying Eichmann and the Mossad Agent while they are being smuggled back into Israel.
Clyman’s play, The Exceptionals, centers around two very different women who have each borne extraordinarily high-IQ children as part of an experiment in genetic engineering. With the children now in kindergarten (and solving quadratic equations), the experimenters wish to enroll them in a special school which will help them realize their full potential. The Boston Globe’s Terry Byrne said that “[w]hat makes this play ‘exceptional’ is Clyman’s ability to create a fairly humorous setup, and then ratchet up the tension to transform a simple story into a high-stakes drama.”
If you’ve already attended CATF, you know to make arrangements early. Each year, one or two productions sell out as the festival gets ready to open, and interest CATF grows year by year. Last year’s attendance broke all box office records.
You’ll want to stay a night or two to take in the entire festival and the budget priced hotels in the charming, historic Shepherdstown, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, fill up quickly.
Click here to view the CATF 2012 festival details, and buy festival passes and individual tickets. If you need help putting your personal package together, box office people are ready to assist you. They can be reached at 304 876-3304.
DCTS reviews CATF, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011