Familial drama drives Marco Players' 'Absalom'

The occasion should be a happy one, but the gathered family in 'Abalom,' the Marco Players' current production, will have little to smile about shortly.  Denise Wauters Johnson

The occasion should be a happy one, but the gathered family in "Abalom," the Marco Players' current production, will have little to smile about shortly. Denise Wauters Johnson

IF YOU GO

‘Absalom’

What: Father and adult children work through their issues, painfully

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 24

Where: 1055 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island

Cost: $25 & $23

Information: Call 642-7270 or themarcoplayers.com

Something else: The theater is located in the Marco Town Center Mall next to Marco Island Brewery.

On the Web: More theater news in the Stage Door blog

at naplesnews.com/stage

From left: Greg Madera, Joe Lang, Rich Nepon, Valentina Cioce and Jesse Heindl in “Absalom.” An aging patriarch must come to terms with his family, and it's not a pleasant reckoning, in 'Absalom.'

Denise Wauters Johnson

From left: Greg Madera, Joe Lang, Rich Nepon, Valentina Cioce and Jesse Heindl in “Absalom.” An aging patriarch must come to terms with his family, and it's not a pleasant reckoning, in "Absalom."

A peaceful moment among the family is a rarity when they gather to learn which one will be bequeathed his famous novel.

Photo by Denise Wauters Johnson

A peaceful moment among the family is a rarity when they gather to learn which one will be bequeathed his famous novel.

— Beverly Dahlstrom found Zoe Kazan entirely by accident. Marco Island audiences might, too.

Kazan’s sharp play “Absalom,” about an angry father and the knotty relationship with his adult children, opens the Marco Players’ season this week.

Dahlstrom, president and artistic director of the Marco Players, said she was channel-surfing one night, stumbled onto one of Kazan’s films and was hooked. Granddaughter of “On the Waterfront” director Elia, Kazan, 30, has been carving a career in front of and behind the camera for a decade.

“There she was,” Dahlstrom said. “I don’t even remember the title but knew I had to do more research on her.”

Kazan began writing “Absalom” while a college student at Yale; the play premiered at the 2009 Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky. The setting: A family gathers in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts to celebrate publication of their father’s latest book. In the course of one day, everything comes together and then falls apart.

“I really liked the play when I read it,” Dahlstrom said. “I liked the material, the storyline. Everyone can identify with a family in crisis.”

Kazan juggles multiple themes with ease — jealousy, entitlement, money, favoritism, even intellectual property. Directors can spin the play’s intricate gears a half-dozen ways with choices in casting and staging.

The crux of “Absalom” finds writer Saul forced to choose between his adult children over rights to one of his landmark novels. Long-ago hurts, betrayals, lies and hidden relationships come into play.

“Every audience member can strongly identify at least one character they know intimately,” Dahlstrom said.

Veteran Richard E. Joyce helms the show for the Marco Players with a strong cast that includes a mix of veterans and newcomers.

“They are all so natural, so comfortable on stage,” Dahlstrom said, praising the ensemble for meshing in the play’s family scenes.

Popular Marco Island physician Joe Lang returns as scheming adopted brother Cole. Lang co-starred in “Visiting Mr. Green” and “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” at the Naples Players last fall. Familiar faces Rich Nepon and Greg Madera join Lang on stage, along with Alexis Michel Angelo, Valentina Cioce and Jesse Heindl.

“He looks just like Johnny Depp,” Dahlstrom promised of Heindl, who plays the family’s black-sheep son.

“Absalom” offers something for almost anyone. The characters should seem familiar to audiences who likely struggled with the same issues with their own brothers, sisters, in-laws and especially parents.

“There’s conflict between everyone in the play,” Dahlstrom said. “You see that in a lot of families. The resentment. The anger.”

The play, constructed in four taut scenes, hinges on the relationships between the various siblings. The moments between adopted son Cole and eldest brother Adam — and the final twist — may leave audiences in shock.

“Audiences will get it,” Dahlstrom declared confidently. “If they don’t, they’re going to go back and ask themselves what they missed.”

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