Joseph Krawczyk’s new play, The Treatment, now playing at IATI is unlike any other play I’ve personally seen from this award-winning playwright. If anything, it is a testament to his ability to try new genres, and attempt a fresh approach to his writing.
His Off-Broadway bound comedy, It’s All About Lorrie is as different as his last production at the American Theatre of Actors, an astonishing historical full-length drama called The Man Who Found Troy. But The Treatment, directed by Eric Parness along with associate Laura Clinton, and developed/produced by the IATI Cimientos program can be best described as a Sci-fi psychological thriller.
The Treatment opens with two men waking up in a futuristic holding cell unsure of why they are there, who they are (or were, for that matter). They seem to have no past or future and they have no clue how long they've been held captive. As they interact with each other we learn that some forcefield (brilliantly created with lighting and sound by Miguel Valderrama (Lighting Design), and Haydn Diaz & Gabriel García (Sound Design) is activated each time they come within proximity of each other. We discover that whatever information they might be holding could lead to their demise if not uncovered soon. The clock is ticking. As they struggle to understand and survive, external (and internal) forces are against them. There's a psychological duality to the play that streams on many levels and creates tension.
Visually, the play is impressive. A sparse, gray set (Scenic Design: Fufan Zhang) enclosed by a fence separating the the audience from the stage creates an unsettling claustrophobic sense of desperation that works well. A reverse projection on that same fence is how Tedium, the head scientist, communicates with the captives. It's a cool and fun process that works beautifully and adds an uncanny big brother feel to the production.
As the two scientists, Tatiana Ronderos (as Tedium), and Marlene Villafane* (as Paragon) are controlled and unsuspecting throughout, giving strong performances as the two scientists tasked with extracting this mystery information. Sean Phillips as Bral, and Brent Shultz as Bic effectively create a sense of two very different personalities struggling to figure out their predicament and impending doom. They are polarized in a way they simply cannot understand. Clear, straight-forward direction by Eric Parness and Laura Clinton, combined with solid performances by this ensemble cast do well to bring the story together nicely, creating a strange, but disturbing aura. You have until October 20th to catch the production at IATI.
On on another level, getting the show up and running at IATI is a story all its own. We spoke to Mr. Krawczyk about his work, the development process, and his reactions as playwright to the final outcome.
LocalTheatreNY.com: It seems like yesterday that I first saw The Treatment in a reading at IATI. How did it get developed at IATI? Tell us about the process.
Joseph Krawczyk: Before the IATI reading, I had a workshop produced at the American Theatre of Actors (ATA) of the play in 2015. I could see that I needed to make revisions, which I had made. During this time, I had a staged reading of a previous play, Release 35.6, at IATI, part of their Cimientos program. The following year I submitted The Treatment, which was accepted into Cimientos 2016 program, one of ten plays out of more than 200 blind submissions. Playwrights met once a month and critiqued each other’s plays, either face to face or through Skype. They were then given an opportunity to rewrite based upon feedback from the playwrights, IATI’s Literary Manager and Artistic Director. At a later date, playwrights were paired with a director to cast a staged reading. The reading was open to the public followed by a talk-back session with the audience. It was an opportunity to do another rewrite.
LocalTheatreNY.com: What changes took place in the material from the time you did the reading to what we are seeing on the stage now?
Joseph Krawczyk: The previous title of the play was called Disconnect and one of the playwrights in the Cimientos program had thought that a more suitable title would be The Treatment. I liked that idea and made the change in the title. One of the original characters was a male and we changed that to a female character so we would have a better balance of two male and two female characters. I worked with the director, Eric Parness, to review the play page by page, made more changes in the dialogue, moved some scenes up front in the play, had another reading followed by more rewriting. When the play was cast, the actors did a table read, heard their thoughts, incorporating some of their suggestions as well. It was an intense, collaborative process, which I thoroughly enjoy. During the more than one hundred hours of rehearsal, we honed the play some more, made more tweaks in the script. Even after the first performance we made further, although minor changes in the script.
LocalTheatreNY.com: With “It’s All About Lorrie” Bound for an OB run of your play, The Man Who Found Troy, just a year ago at ATA, and now The Treatment playing at IATI, how does all that juggling fit into your schedule? How is each project different in terms of your commitment?
Joseph Krawczyk: I’ve been writing plays for about 30 years now and while working a full-time job the challenge was to find the time to write and to get them produced. When I had the opportunity to take early retirement, I jumped at the chance so I can spend my time writing. Every play project has my total commitment, so much so that at times my wife thinks I should be committed.
LocalTheatreNY.com: Now that the play has been handed over to IATI, and the creative collaboration taken place, what’s your feeling about the final product on stage? Is there anything you would do differently?
Joseph Krawczyk: The set designer, lighting and sound designers did a yeoman’s job of putting it all together. I love the lighting and sound effects, which accentuate the overall production of the play. None of this would happen without our director, Eric Parness, and our associate director, Laura Clinton. Honestly, I don’t believe I would do anything differently. I’m completely satisfied with this production.
LocalTheatreNY.com: What was the most memorable moment, or high point, for you during this whole process?
Joseph Krawczyk: The high point for me is when the actors got off book and they did a run through near the end of the rehearsal process. Up until that point, I only saw bits and pieces of the play and I wondered is this going to hold together? Is this going to work? But the actors pulled it off. I have tremendous respect for all of them and the effort they put into this play: Tatiana Ronderos (Tedium), Marlene Villafane (Paragon), Brent Shultz (Bic), and Sean Phillips (Bral). They were a perfect fit and the heart and soul of the play.
LocalTheatreNY.com: What happens next for The Treatment? Where do you see it going?
Joseph Krawczyk: I will send it out to see if other regional theaters would be willing to produce it as well.
LocalTheatreNY.com: What's next for you as a writer? Any upcoming projects you want to share with us? A new play?
Joseph Krawczyk: I had two readings of a new play, Guns, God and Gomorrah. I have a director I’ve been working with, Eddie Lew. He had directed a play of mine last year, The Man Who Found Troy. In my desk draw I have three full length plays I haven’t had any readings yet, but the time will come to work on them as well.
Tickets and more information about The Treatment:
*Member of Actors Equity Association (AEA)