‘Seared’ playwright Rebeck turns up heat on workplace tension
At a recent rehearsal for “Seared,” which is set in the kitchen of a small but fancy restaurant, Brooklyn writer Theresa Rebeck asked actor Rod Gnapp to try something different with a line late in the first act.
In “Seared,” a world premiere commission opening this week at San Francisco Playhouse, many lines dispense with punctuation altogether, the better to capture the relentlessly breakneck pace of high-end food preparation.
“I started writing things, and the punctuation felt wrong,” Rebeck says during a break in rehearsals.
Sometimes, like if you go ‘Oh really,’ and you put the comma and the question mark in, the actor will incorporate that into his or her instrument in some way, and sometimes you just don’t want them to do that.
Having been the subject of a laudatory review, it finally has the potential to make a profit.
[...] that’s only if its head chef, the obdurate Harry (Brian Dykstra, who knew Rebeck, 58, when they were both students at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and for whom this role was written), can stomach some changes to his routine and some challenges to his authority — not just from his partner Mike (Gnapp), but also from Emily (Alex Sunderhaus), an outside consultant.
Rebeck conjures the worlds of work, of wheeling and dealing, in a way that makes her stories feel as though they have high stakes automatically (when of course that urgency is the product of great care and skill).
“When I was quite young,” she says, “I was already interacting with corporate issues around storytelling,” asking herself questions like, Do you alter the story because somebody in power wants you to alter the story?
What is more important, power or story — power structure or what your instrument is telling you is the authentic version of the story?
In film, she just finished writing and directing “Trouble,” which stars Julia Stiles, Bill Pullman, Anjelica Huston and David Morse.
While writing for TV, film and theater are very different tasks, Rebeck says — because of the editing room, the power of close-up and how writers must use language differently as a result — she also sees similarities in writing for television and theater in particular: “They really are powerful ways to tell stories about psychology and human interaction,” in contrast to the “giant, epic landscapes and explosions” that are possible in film and novels, which Rebeck also writes.