‘Sweet and Sad’: It’s a family affair

Clockwise from left, Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders, Shuler Hensley, 
J. Smith-Cameron, Laila Robins and Jon DeVries star in “Sweet and Sad.” Nelson
says the next time we’ll meet the Apple family is election night 2012.

Playwright Richard Nelson gets across his — and by extension, our — feelings about current affairs through a unique literary device: His fictional Apple family reunites to discuss what is going on in the world at large in a series of plays. Audiences first met the Apples last year in Nelson’s production of “That Hopey Changey Thing,” where they gathered the night of the 2010 mid-term election. This year, the Apple family returns in “Sweet and Sad” on the anniversary of 9/11.

“It’s set on the day it will open,” says Nelson, who also directs. (Indeed; “Sweet and Sad” officially opens Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.) “I’m tying these plays to very specific days where specific social events are happening. It’s the whole essence of the series.”

For “Sweet and Sad,” Nelson wanted the Apples to reflect what we might “[say] in our own living room or hear on the TV.” He notes that “two of the people [in the play] lived downtown at the time of 9/11, and one person worked downtown. They all had experiences, like we all did, on that day. And they will come back together to talk about it.”

Nelson, the former chair of the playwriting department at the Yale School of Drama, likes using the Apple family as a microcosm of the world as a whole. “A family dynamic is like society in miniature,” he explains. “It’s an opportunity to talk about a much larger world. It’s a very rich, textured, complex organization.”


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