INTERVIEW: Playwright Lauren Ferebee portrays veteran coming home to turmoil in ‘Reckless Season’

The Reckless Season is a new play from Lauren Ferebee. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Boomerang Theatre Company is currently presenting Lauren Ferebee’s The Reckless Season at TheaterLab in New York City. The show, set in small-town USA, follows an Iraq War veteran who comes home to death, despair and drug deals.

Simon is the protagonist in the play, which runs through Saturday, May 7. He has returned home to find a wave of devastating news: His alcoholic mother is dead by suicide. His younger brother, Terry, is obsessed by a video game, and his mother’s drug dealer, Flynn, is still circling the family. It’s only when Lisa enters the picture that Simon has a sense of finding a real connection in this strange, strange world.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox spoke with Ferebee about the new play. Here’s what she had to say:

On the origins of The Reckless Season …

“I was working on an earlier play called Somewhere Safer. One of the characters in the play was a combat journalist, and at the time I was working on that play, I did an interview with Stacy Pearsall, who is both in the Air Force and also a photographer, one of the more well-known photographers. She took photos of soldiers in Iraq, and kind of speaking with her about her combat experiences laid the groundwork for me to be interested in that subject. She and her husband were both in the military, and when I started writing this play, the military played a smaller role. But then I realized for Simon and also for Lisa, for both characters in the play, that it was a way to sort of look at the impact of war on some of the very young veterans that we have, and then I did a lot of the laying in the groundwork and doing research on all that.”

On how the characters developed …

“It’s interesting. I first actually started with Simon and Terry, and Terry is his brother in the play. And it was at first really a play about their relationship as brothers, and Terry being sort of this very oddball younger brother who plays video games and works at a truck stop. And it started out being about their relationship, and then Terry works at this truck stop. And I realized that this character of Lisa, who is his co-worker and confidante, actually played a really significant role in the play. And then the fourth character, whose name is Flynn, he’s the drug dealer. I actually really resisted having him in the play, but I think he sort of wormed his way in. If you see the play, you would understand that that’s sort of how that character is, and it just needed that kind of fourth person, an outside perspective, someone who is kind of this voice of not exactly normalcy but a little bit more off-the-wall oddball kind of a guy. And I think he provides the play’s lighter moments, and also as that character has developed, he’s really become kind of a way of looking into some of the issues of small-town life, including the meth epidemic and prescription pill addiction, that kind of thing, because he’s sort of the provider of those things for this town that all four of them are living in.”

On how the show has developed …

“We did a workshop production in 2014 at the Spartanburg Little Theatre as part of my residency, and I was very heavily involved in that workshop production. And because I don’t live in New York anymore, it was a little hit harder for me to be involved in this, so I really haven’t gotten to see too much of what they’re doing. So it’s definitely a different set of ideas, a different take on the play than what we did in South Carolina in 2014 and certainly much more tech-heavy. We were operating on a very low budget when we did the workshop, and this one we really have a lot of production. There’s a lot more kind of lighting and set design.”

On what the audience takeaway might be …

“There’s quite a bit of weirdness and funniness about human ashes in the play, like a lot of dark comedy around the subject of ashes and what we do with ashes. There are ashes in the play, and people will often come up to me after the play and tell me their weird story. They’ll be like, ‘My mom’s ashes are sitting on my library desk.’ Or, ‘Yeah, I have these ashes. I don’t know what to do with them either.’ And I really love that people feel free to talk to me about these experiences that we all have, but no one really talks about, about death and the weirdness around death. And that’s one of my favorite takeaways.

“And the other one that I really loved, and that I hope people really do feel, is that I had an audience member last year who is not really a theater person come up to me after a reading and say, ‘You know, at some point, I just realized this is just a play you really have to listen to from your gut.’ That to me was a really beautiful encapsulation of what I think people have to do with the play. It’s a very visceral play, and I hope that people just leave feeling that it affected them at a guttural level.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Lauren Ferebee’s The Reckless Season, from Boomerang Theatre Company, is currently playing TheaterLab in New York City. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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