The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin, written by Steven Levenson and directed by Scott Ellis begins previews this week.
This production will be the world premiere of Steven’s new play, which we commissioned him to write after producing his first professional work, The Language of Trees, in our Roundabout Underground program in 2008. That trajectory makes this show a particularly fulfilling one for me, as it demonstrates exactly what I had always hoped would come from launching the New Play Initiative. We didn’t just produce a play and then send the young writer on his merry way to figure out what comes next; we gave Steven Levenson (like Stephen Karam before him) an artistic home where we could support whatever he did next. Happily, what he did next has turned out to be an utterly moving piece of work.
The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin is blessed with a complicated title and a simple theme: what are we owed in life? The play poses that question on several levels, ranging from the familial to the global. At its core is the query of what a son owes to his father. If a man has loved you and raised you, are you obligated to forgive him for even the most egregious mistakes he has made? Is it fair for him to assume that you will? Tom Durnin fully expects to be welcomed home with open arms by his son James, but when it comes to that particular dynamic, nothing is ever that easy.
Set in 2009 against the backdrop of the recession and housing bust, the play also forces us to question what we as a society think we are owed by the “bad guys” of that period. Do we derive satisfaction from watching the Madoffs and Abramoffs put behind bars? Why do we feel this need to assign blame? What does it say about us if our outrage will only be calmed by watching the few individuals we can prosecute continue to suffer?
Tom Durnin is, ultimately, a play about finding the strength to move forward. When the world seems like it’s turned against these characters, plowing ahead can feel impossible. But if they are able to tap into their better selves, allowing love or forgiveness to sneak back into their lives, they might just stand a chance. And those who choose to look ahead and not dwell on what is owed to them from the past will find the best odds of reclaiming happiness.
I’m so happy to be bringing you this deeply felt new play. It’s a beautiful, mature work from a playwright who I know will be with us for years to come. I hope you enjoy Tom Durnin, and I will, as always, be eager to hear your response to the piece. Please remember to email me with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
2012-2013 Season, The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin