Axial Theatre’s Newest Production Full of ‘Radiance’
By: Milton Wilbur
The inspiration for Howard Meyer’s new play came when he wasn’t looking for one.
Taking a trip to the Southwest to propose to his wife, Meyer returned home with more than just an engagement. He also came back with an idea for a new play called “Radiance.” It is the Axial Theatre Company’s latest production, which begins this week at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Pleasantville for a three-week engagement.
“I didn’t go out there looking for a story,” said Meyer, Axial Theatre’s co-founder. “But I guess that’s sometimes how stories find us, when we least expect them.”
“Radiance” is a story that takes place in Los Alamos, N.M., where the main character, a hopeful scientist, is investigating the potential cover-up of toxic waste pits. Radiation is believed to be leaking into a neighboring Native American reservation. While the play focuses on the sacred land being poisoned, it also looks into the toxic relationships between its characters.
The drama is unique and novel from what Meyer usually writes, he said. The evolving story has also required rewrites into the final week of rehearsal, something common for original works like the ones Axial Theatre consistently produces.
The show’s director, Chris Grabowski, said the drama explores whether the land can be saved and if the broken human bonds caused by the incident can be repaired.
While it’s usually easy to follow the script of an Arthur Miller play or a Shakespearean production, for one that’s never been performed, experimenting can become commonplace and continue until the final week of preparation.
“When the playwright’s dead, or long dead, he’s not going to show up to rehearsal and say ‘You know, that’s not what I meant,’” said Grabowski, who noted that he was receptive to changes from Meyer because of his experience directing.
Meyer said while a playwright might interpret the story his way, once it is put into the actors’ hands, it may turn out differently.
The storyline for “Radiance” also explores issues that may hit close to home for some audience members, particularly with Indian Point in close proximity, Meyer said. Axial has invited representatives from Riverkeeper, Clearwater and Indian Point to discuss the issues raised in the play following the Sunday, May 5 matinee.
Riverkeeper, an organization that advocates for clean water, has confirmed it will send a representative. It is also likely that a Clearwater rep will participate, Meyer said. As for Indian Point, Axial is still awaiting a response.
“You have issues that are germane to not just the world at large and humanity in general, but to our communities specifically,” Meyer said. “We thought it’d be exciting to have the play be a platform for discussion.”
Axial, now in its 14th year, is committed to original work that Westchester residents can enjoy without traveling to Manhattan. Jaki Silver, who has been with Axial for about two years, said audience members have the opportunity to see a fresh production, one that may never be done again.
The opening performance of “Radiance” was on Thursday evening Performances will continue each Thursday to Sunday through May 19 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, located at 8 Sunnyside Ave. in Pleasantville. Shows on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are scheduled for 8 p.m. Sunday performances begin at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20; $15 for seniors and students. For more information and tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit www.axialtheatre.org.