Blog Less Traveled: Sean Cullen comes home
blog by Scott Behrend • October 27, 2011 @ 7:00am
Since its inception in 2003, Road Less Traveled Productions has been dedicated to dual missions: first, to develop and produce new plays by local—Western New York—playwrights, and second, to celebrate previously produced plays of outstanding merit by established playwrights of stature and esteem.
On Friday, November 4th, 2011, RLTP will enjoy a rare opportunity to fulfill both of those missions simultaneously by presenting a free reading of Buffalo native Sean Cullen’s 2010 play Safe Home at the Road Less Traveled Theater (639 Main ST., Buffalo).
RLTP Literary Director Jon Elston and I had the pleasure of making Sean’s acquaintance in May 2010, shortly after Safe Home had completed a very successful Off-Off-Broadway run. As Safe Home was Sean’s first play, he hadn’t been on our radar previously as a playwright—but upon meeting him, we instantly recognized him as George Clooney’s addict brother in the film Michael Clayton You might also know him from his work as Bruce Willis’ boss in Cop-Out (2011) or from his prolific television work (Law and Order: SVU, Blue Bloods) .
At that time, I considered myself fortunate to have Sean—who was also acting in Lincoln Center Theater’s Tony-Award-winning revival of South Pacific at the same time as Safe Home was garnering critical accolades—reach out to us, a producing house in his home town of Buffalo. You may consider me tenfold fortunate to have then read his play and discovered that it was, indeed, a powerful modern drama in a very classic tradition.
A period melodrama set in early 1950s Buffalo, NY, Safe Home portrays the slow unraveling of the working class Hollytree family following the departure of eldest son Lucky for the frontline of the Korean War. The New York Times compared Safe Home to Death of a Salesman – and not unfavorably, mind you. In fact, the Times called it “shocking” and “powerful”... high praise from that very fickle critical body.
Safe Home does feel like an Arthur Miller play in setting, mood and dynamic, but it also utilizes a rather unorthodox non-chronological structure—the sort of structure that is popular in cinema (notably in films like Memento and Pulp Fiction), but which (outside of Pinter’s Betrayal) we see very little of on the stage. Sean’s use of this structure is not intended purely to confound or to deliver a climactic “shock twist”, however—instead, he capitalizes on the fractured chronology to cast his character’s tragic histories in a more profound light. Thereby, at the end of the play, you will watch two characters share a rare moment of tenderness, knowing full well where both of them will arrive at later in their sad journeys, and that knowledge enriches, I think, the beauty and impact of that final moment.
Sean will return to Buffalo on Friday, Nov. 4 to receive a special Alumni Arts Award from Bishop Timon St. Jude High School—his alma mater. That same evening, it will be RLTP’s honor to share Safe Home with interested WNY theatergoers (again, free of charge). Sean will be in attendance to introduce the play.
I strongly encourage readers to take advantage of this offer and check out a striking contemporary drama, straight from the NYC stage, by a gifted playwright with a Buffalo background. I know that Sean has big plans in store for future productions of Safe Home – so this is a priceless opportunity to get a glimpse of a local success-story in progress.
Safe Home will be read at the Road Less Traveled Theater at MAFAC on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. The cast will include Dan Walker, Debbie Pappas, Steve Copps, Cassie Gorniewicz, Patrick Cameron and RLTP Resident Actor Bob Grabowski.
Please call (716) 629-3069 for reservations – seating is extremely limited.
And by the way – welcome to my very first Blog entry! I will be back here every couple of weeks to talk about exciting developments in WNY’s Theatre scene – and not just stuff happening at Road Less Traveled! I hope you’ll join me next time on this Blog Less Traveled!