The hottest theatrical ticket in town has nothing to do with weird circuses (Cirque du Soleil’s "Varekai") or wardrobe malfunctions (Arizona Theatre Company’s "The Underpants"). It’s a simple play reading Friday night at Scottsdale’s Cattle Track Compound arts center.
There, Dale Wasserman — hobo-turned-playwright of such theatrical classics as "Man of La Mancha," based on Cervantes’ "Don Quixote," and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," from the Ken Kesey novel — will debut a new oneact called "Boy on Blacktop Road."
Wasserman has retired from the hullabaloo of New York and Hollywood, he says, and settled in Paradise Valley. ("I don’t advertise that," he says, laughing. His bio says he chooses Arizona because it’s the one state that refuses to adopt daylight-saving time.) Here, he continues to work on new projects; the latest is a new book for "Beggar’s Holiday," jazz legend Duke Ellington’s 1946-47 Broadway musical. That show opens the 2004-05 season at the Marin Theatre in Mill Valley, Calif.
But Wasserman would rather talk about the reading of "Boy on Blacktop Road" — a rare local effort by the playwright — because he says the piece is "very ambitious."
"I find it very hard to describe because it’s a highly personal play," he says. "I wish I could tell you more, but the damn thing is so mysterious that even I don’t understand it."
Pressed further, he’ll explain that the show’s title character is a boy who "appears out of nowhere, speaks no language and has never seen another human. He’s like a book waiting to be written." His interactions with people proceed to disastrous ends. The show takes place after the boy has appeared and then disappeared; five characters, spurred on by an investigator, reveal their relationships to the boy.
"We’re in pretty deep waters here," Wasserman says, laughing.
"Boy on Blacktop Road" has already been set for a 2005 production on the West Coast, Wasserman says, with an option pending in New York.
He’s using the reading as a workshop of sorts for the hourlong, one-act play. It may eventually get expanded to a full-length show, he says.
For now, "Boy on Blacktop Road" will share billing with another one-act, "Mixed Messages" — three comic vignettes that explore Viagra, volunteerism and charity — by fellow Paradise Valley playwright Richard Warren, founder of Phoenix Theatre’s popular New Works Festival.
Both plays will be directed by Daniel Schay and performed by a cast including Valley actors Natalie and Randy Messersmith, Robyn Allen and Mark DeMichele.
‘Boy on Blacktop Road’ with ‘Mixed Messages’
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Cattle Track Compound, 6105 N. Cattletrack Road, Scottsdale