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Playwright calls new Williamston show a sad farce

The play was chosen ahead of the pandemic, but the events of recent years have increased the need for work on the themes of Tracy Jones, which opens at the Williamston Theater this month. It runs until June 19th.

Emily Sutton-Smith and Madelyn Porter in the Williamston Theater production of Stephen Kaplan's Tracy Jones.

The comedy, a new work Williamston is co-producing this season with theaters in New York and Florida, is set in the back room of a chain restaurant where Tracy Jones is throwing a party for everyone who shares her name. It’s also a co-production with Northville’s Tipping Point Theater, so when the show ends in Williamston, it will pack up and move to the other theater immediately, and the actors and technical staff will get another several weeks of work.

Director Tony Caselli, who is also the theater’s artistic director, first came across the script when a friend sent it to him. The National New Play Network promotes new works by helping organize so-called “rolling world premieres,” where a show opens in multiple theaters and all are credited as premieres.

Written by Stephen Kaplan, Tracy Jones touches on loneliness and isolation, themes that have been intensified during the pandemic. Full of laughter and humor while touching on blue subjects, the playwright calls it a sad farce. Caselli said he was immediately drawn to the script when he read it in early 2019.

Emily Sutton-Smith and Steve DeBruyne in the Williamston Theaters production of "Tracy Jones" by Stephen Kaplan.

“It’s really funny and really cute,” Caselli said. “Then I found it on the New Play Exchange Network and started sharing it with other theaters I’ve worked with.”

As he read it, isolation was something he felt came from technology, social media, and the division of the world in general. They staged a reading of the play on Giving Tuesday in 2019 and scheduled it for their next season — a season that would be canceled by COVID.

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