Emily Dinova writes plays and Gregory Cioffi directs them. The first time I met the young duo, Emily was debuting a play called CAPTURE, about a woman who faces her younger, abused self. I couldn't really see the play, or what they were describing, in my head until I saw it on stage. I was floored. With Greg's use of Suzuki style direction and movement, and Emily's poetic and touching tale of a young, abused woman, I knew they were on to something. But this new play, COLD PORRIDGE, is a whole different animal. A satire of the classic, staged murder mystery genre, my interest was peaked by the possibilities. Back on the theatre circuit, and again at the New York Theater Festival, I am excited to see what they have in store for us this time around. So I asked some questions! Here they are.
Q: COLD PORRIDGE seems so different from what I expected. It's more like an Agatha Christie mystery! Tell me how and why you wrote this play. What can we expect?
Emily Dinova: The inspiration for this piece was Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, which Greg and I saw while we were in London in last June. We loved the play so much and really wanted to delve into the 'murder mystery' genre while still creating a unique and hilarious piece. Cold Porridge, at its core, is a satire. You can expect tons of laughter and chaos. This piece is going to leave you guessing until the very end.
Q: Tell us more about the characters. Is this a period piece with costumes? Who are the main characters?
Emily Dinova: The characters are pretty diverse. I wanted to remain faithful by keeping certain archetypes of the Murder Mystery Characters but the piece is completely modernized - giving it a much deserved make over. The players are English, American, French, Spanish, etc, etc. They range from the lunatic gold digging wife to the blunt grandma with dementia, from a mysterious ex fiancé with classified documents to a lost "relative" who shows up uninvited.
Q: This is your second go-around at the festival. Why did you return to this festival and how will you approach the second time around.
Emily Dinova: We actually thought it was a different festival all together, seeing as there was a name change! But we had a great experience with Franco & Team two years ago and so we know that we will be given the time and production value to put this ambitiously large and intricate piece together.
Q: Suzuki was the style used last time by your director, Gregory Cioffi. What can we expect this time from the directing?
Emily Dinova: Yes, Capture was a very stylized play, heavily influenced in the Suzuki method. Being though this play is pretty much the complete antithesis of Capture, the direction of Cold Porridge is distinct. Inspired by the murder mysteries of the past, we are paying homage (while simultaneously satirizing) the crime fiction genre. Greg has delved into everything from Murder on the Orient Express to the board-game Clue while figuring out what the classic "whodunit" would look like today given the changes in technology and our current zeitgeist. Of course, that isn't to say that Greg's training doesn't come into play whatsoever; he's working on what he has been calling a "Wonderful Scooby-Doo Inspired Movement Piece" using Viewpoints. I believe it might even close out Act 1...I can't say for sure of course...
Q: Yes, CAPTURE was indeed very stylized and almost psychological in style. This play seems more traditional. Is it? And what kind of playwriting style is appealing to you lately?
Emily Dinova: I would say it's a massive twist on the traditional. It has all the elements of Christie's traditional works, but like I said it has been modernized and flipped on its head. It's a refreshing take with an ending I can guarantee you won't see coming. What appealed to me about writing something like this is the level of depth in the characters you have to create in order to keep the audience guessing- the intricate plots and twists and secrets which are slowly revealed. Every single character (all 9 of them) have a motive. And comedy! I know it's not my usual go to, but I think with the state of the world, we can all use a few more laughs.
Q: Where and how did the idea of an island and a mental institute all evolve, and this mansion! Great concept. I'm curious about the development process.
Emily Dinova: So I originally wrote a screenplay that took place at this mental institution about 50/60 years before the time that Cold Porridge happens. It has been a location that has been floating around in my mind for a few years now. And when I finished the screenplay, I realized that I didn't want to let go of this fabulously horrific place I had built. So instead, I let it fester and rot and then be remodeled and wait patiently for a piece that would truly need to take place there. Did I mention it's haunted?
COLD PORRIDGE debuts at the New York Theater Festival on January 4th, 2018 as part of the Winterfest 2018 Competition at the Hudson Guild Theatre.
Dates/times are January 4, 2018 @ 6:15pm January 5, 2018 @ 6:15pm, and January 7, 2018 @ 8:30pm. Tickets can be found on BrownPaperTickets.com