In 2004, New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof purchased the freedom of two Cambodian sex slaves and documented their progress in his column. Eric Pfeffinger found the story so inspirational that he immediately took action – though, admittedly, perhaps not entirely magnanimous action.
“I heard Nicholas Kristof’s story, which was very powerful and very moving, and it led me to think, ‘What if I wrote a play about this?’ That’s probably the least effective and noble thing a person can think after seeing a story of human suffering, but it’s what I did,” he says.
“Some Other Kind of Person” was commissioned by InterAct Theatre Company in 2009 and had its world premiere on Tuesday. The lead character has been transformed from a journalist into a businessman, the tone from tragedy to dark, bitter comedy. “A journalist automatically has an awareness of what they’re doing,” Pfeffinger says. “Because of their profession they know that there’s going to be ramifications. I was interested in somebody who was a neophyte in the world of doing good, somebody not as informed and enlightened as Nicholas Kristof. He’s dipping a toe into being a global citizen, and just because of his inexperience winds up being pretty inept at it.”
In InterAct, which is dedicated to producing new plays with political themes, Pfeffinger found an ideal home for the idea. “Doing nothing but new stuff is a pretty courageous and risky thing to do in the theater economy to begin with,” he says, “and then only doing stuff that has a political orientation is increasing the degree of difficulty beyond what most theaters would be willing to try. So I really admire what InterAct does, and the fact that they thought this idea was as good a fit for their mission as I had hoped it would be was very satisfying.”
The play is hardly Pfeffinger’s first foray into tricky thematic territory. The Toledo-based playwright has dealt with clashes between religion and feminism in “Accidental Rapture,” dating a suspected abortion-clinic bomber in “Hunting High,” and fertility clinics and Holocaust deniers in “Barrenness.” But he found the satirical sweet spot particularly hard to hit with this latest piece.
“I wasn’t interested in doing something broad,” he says. “I wanted these to be real people, and that means that the suffering that grows out of this very real global problem is real as well. So the idea of filtering it through a comic lens is tricky. Basically, I apparently wanted to load up this play with as many possible ways for it to fail as I could possibly think of.”
If you go
'Some Other Kind of Person'
Through June 23
2030 Sansom St.