By Joan Ross Sorkin
THIS IS SERIOUS
(Zoom Reading Excerpts from Part I. Click video audio bars to start and adjust audio volume.)
This Is Serious is a two-part, four-character COVID play set in New Rochelle, NY, the first epicenter of the virus on the east coast. The play, written in “real time,” is about the Granville family and how they try to make sense out of life amid the pandemic. By exploring stress in a time of crisis when life and death hang in the balance, the family dynamic is laid bare. The play dramatizes how easily hopes and dreams can be dashed and how fear and uncertainly cause our worst impulses to rear their ugly heads.
Part I (“Between A Rock and A Hard Place”) begins on March 11, 2020 when Maggie and Richard are self-quarantined, but their plans are upended when their freshman college son Petey arrives home with his former Latinx girlfriend Aña who lives across the hall from the COVID-infected custodian from Young Israel, the original hotspot. Wanting to protect her family at all cost, Maggie is at loggerheads with Petey, while Richard plays the peacemaker. Things get more complicated when Maggie’s sister Laurie contracts the virus in Massachusetts and wants to come and stay with them in New Rochelle. An unexpected accident occurs to disrupt their lives even further and leads to the outcome of Part I.
Part II (“Double Whammy”) continues the saga of the Granvilles almost three months later, on Wed., May 27, two days after George Floyd is murdered in Minneapolis. In the interim Aña and Petey have broken up, but the Granvilles are still in lockdown, as COVID still rages. Questions of racial injustice are raised by the Black Lives Matter protests, and racism, guns and violence are debated by the family. However, their views are tested when Aña secretly arrives and wants Petey to go with her to the protest in Brooklyn that Saturday night. The collision between the events outside and those occurring within the family leads to a surprise ending.
Each part of the play can be produced as a separate one-act, though it is preferable that both parts be produced as a full-length play with an intermission.
A Zoom reading (Parts I and II) was presented by Ken Davenport’s TheaterMakers Studio on October 8, 2020. The play was directed by Nick Corley, and the cast included: Emily Skinner (Maggie), Stephen Bogardus (Richard), Ben Fankhauser (Petey), Yarissa Tiara Millan (Aña), and Nick Corley (Stage Directions). The reading was held as a benefit for Feeding Westchester, and over $10,000 was raised for this worthy cause.
Zoom reading (2020)
“One of my favorite evenings during Covid. A well written and moving theatre experience with fabulous acting. It reminds me how much I miss life before Covid.”
“A tour de force.”
“It hits home for all of us, of course. The first act intensity was riveting to the point where my face was twitching. Congratulations to entire cast, the director and Joan. Excellent work.”
“It is excellent. So real. Maggie is awesome.”
“I loved your play!!!!! The writing was so well done and the actors were really terrific. It totally held my interest throughout, and I’ll admit I shed more than a few tears...I’m always a sucker for plays, books etc. set in the present day with highly identifiable characters and settings, so you had me… it was a marvelous “escape” from my non-stop MSNBC watching and made me realize how much I enjoy a good play - and a good one it was.”
“What a delightful experience this evening was. Your play was so much more engaging than I ever expected of a reading. I think this was because the actors were superb and the dialogue was realistic, spirited and nuanced. I truly felt as if it were on stage…so glad that I had the opportunity to be in the audience.”
Ann Rose Simon
“Your characters have depth and authenticity, your plots draw us in, and the dialogue is genuine and at times very funny. The actors were terrific.”
“I loved watching your play…This one should make Broadway!”
“I really enjoyed the play and liked that different characters had different responses to Covid…so very timely and well done.”
“This one certainly hit all the issues we are struggling with. And the family dynamic was perfect....the worrying mom (me) and the optimistic husband (mine). I like to think of worriers as realists!”
“Excellent! Really great presentations of all the different viewpoints. Fabulous dialogue.”
“I must say that by the end of Act II was so moved that I wept a bit.”
Faye Menken Schneier
“This was terrific-a great dramatic exploration and historical record.”
“I loved that the characters don’t know what is going to happen.”
“Really great acting! I was on edge waiting to hear what was going to happen next. Kudos to you, Joan, and many thanks to you and everyone who donated to Feeding Westchester!”
“Felt like I was back when my girls were 19!!”
“The play was great. It was like a thorough indulgence of the last 7 or 8 months since March. It was just so rich with all the nuance that’s been going through everybody’s head from the localist, local level to the big national and international issues, all in one. Nice little theory of everything. It was really something. I watched and watched and when it was over, it was really grueling and exhausting, but rich.”
“In comparing Zoom to live theatre, very effective. I felt like I was in the room!”