A beachy summer comedy will be making its debut in the Hamptons this week at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. Betty’s Summer Vacation is an outrageous comedy about a young woman who spends the summer in a beach town, soon turning into a nightmare of a summer share. Created by playwright Christopher Durang, this play not only brings on the laughs, but also presents Durang’s commentary on our society’s incessant need to be entertained.
In the play, set in the 1990s, Betty and her garrulous acquaintance Trudy take a vacation to the beach together. Betty hopes that it will be a quiet, relaxing vacation, but it turns out to be quite the opposite with the arrival of the other guests at the house: the landlady, Mrs. Siezmagraff, who turns out to be Trudy’s mother with whom she has a precarious relationship; Buck, a “sexist macho pig”; Keith, a serial killer; and the perverted Mr. Vainslaw. Furthermore, there is a “laugh track” in the house, mysterious voices that laugh at the characters and comment in unison. The beach house residents have to interact with these disembodied voices, contributing to the chaos that ensues. “As outlandish as the events are, it’s deeply, deeply funny, and it will be wildly entertaining,” said Trip Cullman, the director of the play.
Moreover, Betty’s Summer Vacation has a message that is increasingly applicable to our society. The play was written in the ‘90s, at a time when there was a string of sensational murders that captured the public’s imagination, including the cases of the Bobbitt couple and the Menendez Brothers. Cullman said that “The play came out of his [Durang’s] self-disgust about these crimes and how the people who committed these crimes became celebrities…the play is about the insatiable appetite that we as a culture have for salacious news stories or murder or mayhem, and the way in which fame is its own reward no matter what the moral consequences of one’s actions are.” These days, anyone can become a star on the Internet, and Betty’s Summer Vacation addresses these issues in a hilarious but slightly disturbing way.
The play made a very successful off-Broadway run in New York in 1999, and has been performed in a number of other theaters since. Some of Durang’s career highlights include Beyond Therapy, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, A History of the American Film (for which he received a Tony nomination), and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. He also co-chairs the playwriting program at The Juilliard School. Cullman was the Associate Director for the Broadway production of Take Me Out, and he has numerous off-Broadway credits as well. Directing Betty’s Summer Vacation has been a full-circle moment for Cullman, as he was cast in a Christopher Durang play in high school, and “responded so much to it and his sensibilities,” he said, “that working on that play made me want to make a life for myself in the theatre.”
With a seasonally appropriate beach house setting, and an accomplished playwright, director and cast, Betty’s Summer Vacation will surely make its mark on the Hamptons summer arts scene.
Betty’s Summer Vacation: Previews begin Tuesday, July 5. Opening night is Saturday, July 9. The talkback with the cast after the show is Tuesday, July 12.h For schedule and tickets, go to www.baystreet.org, call 631-725-9500, or visit the box office. [/expand]