David Van Asselt, artistic director of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, wanted to put together a West Village event for a long time. But it wasn’t until Lucy Thurber was finishing her five-play cycle, The Hill Town Plays, that he had a catalyst for doing so.
He felt “the whole would be greater than the sum of the parts” if all five plays were up at the same time. So he waited two years until Cherry Lane Theatre (Mainstage and Studio), Axis Theatre and New Ohio Theatre were all available to join Rattlestick — and the Theater Village festival, which may become an annual tradition, was born.
Playwright Thurber thinks the resulting theatergoing experience — five thematically related dramas playing within the same time span — is epic. All deal with “a girl, who happens to be gay, coming out of the world of the rural poor.” The plays, Thurber says, are part autobiography and part fiction.
Among other things, they “examine the fact and effect of violence in that culture.” Violence features prominently onstage. Chairs are thrown against walls and punches against teeth with alarming frequency. Thurber says she actually toned down the violence from her own life experience. She notes the urban poor share the pressures of drugs and alcohol; people lose track of themselves. And if you don’t own anything or feel you have a real chance of justice, “hitting somebody, defending perceived pride and honor, gives you the sense you exist in the world.”
The Hill Town Plays
Through Sept. 28
Various West Village theaters
$55, general admission