Four-time Emmy Award winner John Larroquette, who also won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, stars in Arizona Theatre Company’s virtual audio presentation of Lauren Gunderson’s heartwarming story based on her grandfather’s life, The Heath, the second of three plays this spring inspired by their playwrights’ personal life journeys.
The Heath will be presented in an audio format with imagery at 5 p.m. April 14 through 5 p.m. April 18 (Arizona Time) and can be viewed at www.arizonatheatre.org and on YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo. It will be followed by Somewhere Over the Border, inspired by Reina Quijada’s real-life journey from El Salvador to the U.S. and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Somewhere Over the Border, a new musical that is both fable and family history, will be available at 8 p.m May 4 through 8 p.m. May 8.
“It’s an honor for ATC to be able to provide these two shows together: Two of the most exciting artists of our generation telling dangerously brave autobiographical pieces,” said ATC Artistic Director Sean Daniels. “These two artists are the future of the American Theatre, if not its present, and we’re excited to share their work with Arizona and the world.”
The third play, ATC Playwright-in-Residence Elaine Romero’s autobiographical play Halsted, will stream at 5 p.m. from March 10 through March 14 as part of the previously announced RomeroFest, a monthlong celebration of her work. Halsted examines how we love and find hope when we don't have the words. For more information, visit www.arizonatheatre.org/romerofest.
In The Heath, which will be directed by Daniels, Gunderson turns her storytelling on herself as she wrestles with how you make peace with a beloved relative who seems unlike you in every way. This beautiful, funny meditation on her South Carolinian grandfather’s life draws on everything from Shakespeare’s King Lear to Bluegrass banjo in a soul-stirring story of legacy, family, Alzheimer’s, World War II, redemption, love, madness and the science of memory.
“It’s impossible not to be moved by Lauren Gunderson’s elegant understated writing,” Glenn Rifkin wrote in his review in The Arts Fuse of the world premiere under Daniels’ direction in 2019 by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.
“Lauren’s work is fearless and equal part hilarious (with chunks of science, of course) and asks the question of our time: will we ever learn to look for similarities and not differences in those different from us,” Daniels said. “Can we lead with love and curiosity before it’s too late?”
Larroquette will perform as Gunderson’s deceased grandfather, K.D. Martin and as King Lear, during the playwright’s imagined encounter after his passing following a long, dark struggle with Alzheimer’s. Gunderson will appear as herself.
Larroquette is best known to television audiences as Assistant District Attorney Dan Fielding, a role he played on NBC's Night Court. He also starred in the NBC comedy series The John Larroquette Show playing the night manager of a St. Louis bus station who is trying to change his life for the better. In its second season, it was nominated for four Emmys, including Best Actor for Larroquette. He won the Tony Award in 2011 for his role in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Gunderson, one of America’s most-produced playwrights, continues her long and highly regarded collaborative relationship with Daniels, which includes the staging of Silent Sky with ATC. Sound Design will be by Danny Erdberg and Danielle Zandri is the Stage Manager.
Neil Shurley, in his review for BroadwayWorld.com, wrote that “I want to tell you about the deceiving simplicity of the confessional tone, about the way Gunderson weaves together King Lear and music lessons and even scientific asides about the empty space between dendrites that mysteriously house the memories of our own brains ... I want to tell you all these things. But more than anything, I just want to tell you to see The Heath and experience the simple magic of theatre.”
Set in the 1970s and propelled by Cumbia, Mexican Mariachi Boleros, American Rock and Hip Hop, Somewhere Over the Border is a testament to the determination born of love.
“Brian’s work delves into the larger question of where do we come from, and how is family constructed,” Daniels said. “In a musical over Zoom, which is no small feat, he is pushing all of us to identify what are the things that bring us together, and why can’t we so readily see them? How do we choose a better life for our family and for each other?”
Joining Morosco in the cast are Diana Burbano (Antonia/Leona), Ricardo Gutierrez (Don Napoleon/Silvano), Tommy Rivera-Vega (Adan/Cruz), Jerreme Rodriguez (The Narrator) and Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda (Julia).
Vaibu Mohan is the Assistant Director, Glenn Bruner is the Production Stage Manager, Saori “Cel” Yokoo is the Stage Manager, Kristen Leahey is the Dramaturg and Nick Carroll is the Stage Management Intern.
Both The Heath and Somewhere Over the Border can be streamed for free, although donations are gratefully accepted.
For more information about Arizona Theatre Company, visit www.arizonatheatre.org.