Pushing the envelope

Dirty Story

Just light the thing, will ya’?

Just light the thing, will ya’?

Jonathan Williams has a tricky dilemma. He’s directing the Capital Stage production of Dirty Story, opening this weekend, and he’d really like to talk about it. But he has to be extremely careful what he says.

The play’s by John Patrick Shanley, who hit the Hollywood jackpot (and won an Oscar) with his original screenplay for Moonstruck some years back. Shanley also scored a Pulitzer for Drama in 2005 with his play Doubt.

But none of that prepares you for his 2003 play Dirty Story, which is—ah—somewhat less mainstream. Critics have described it as “a madcap foray” with “weird deviations.” In fact, it’s rather controversial.

It also tells a story that contains surprising twists and turns, which are only gradually revealed to the audience. And director Williams is understandably determined not to spoil the fun by disclosing the full agenda in advance.

So Williams offers teasing hints:

—It’s about two writers—one an established veteran, the other a grad student seeking advice.

—It’s a highly physical play, and a battle of the sexes, sometimes recalling Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, but with (ahem) sadomasochistic overtones.

—It’s a black comedy, gradually expanding into real-world issues that range far, far beyond the unconventional personal relationship that develops in the first act.

—And it features a devil . . . more specifically, “a devil puppet that was built for us by Richard Bay, the master puppeteer from CSU Sacramento,” according to Williams. (You may recall Bay’s ingenious university production last year of the 300-year-old Japanese puppet tragedy The Love Suicides at Sonezaki.)

To learn more (and there’s quite a bit more), you’ll simply have to see the show.

“It’s going to be the edgiest piece of theater we’ve staged to date,” Williams said. “This is really the theater that we want to be doing. We’ll be pushing the envelope further than we’ve pushed before.”