Surprise, you’re in the New Works Festival! Um, thanks … huh? That’s how it happened, more or less, at least for Bruce Menin. The school committee member, you see, is an inveterate, although not especially detail-oriented scribbler. Last summer, he looked at the calendar and noticed it was like five minutes to deadline for the New Works Festival, so, he rifled through the old desk drawer and found a 10-minute play he had written almost three years ago. A couple of tweaks and, for better or worse, the thing was in the mail. He didn’t think too much of it, just kind of wrote it off. “It was such an afterthought, that I completely forgot about it,” he says. Until he ran into one of the festival organizers, who congratulated him for landing a spot in the festival, a two-weekend celebration of new plays by local writers. ”Much to my embarrassment, I had to ask him for what,” says Menin. “ When he told me that I had been selected for New Works, to my further embarrassment, I had to ask him which play I had submitted.”
The piece in question was “Last Night,” a short about infidelity, murder, suicide and forgiveness: A couple of lovers are caught in the act by one of the spouses, which "leads to some serious, long-term complications for all,” says Menin, a regular contributor to Random Acts, the play-in-a-day series. It’s a dark comedy — “black hole dark, I I suppose,” he says. If the audience sticks around past the first two minutes of the play — past the gunshots, that it to say — “it might work,” he says. “If it doesn't, it certainly won't be because of the efforts of the cast and the director.” That would be cast members Arthur Knight, Theresa Donahoe and Sandy Farrier, and director Tim Diering, who is clearly a fan.
“From the first time I read it, I knew I wanted to direct it,” says Diering. "It’s a somewhat farcical look at the unintended consequences of an extramarital affair. Sex, violence and laughs galore. But like all good scripts, it has bigger-picture concepts you can't escape — in fact, you have to honor them in order to appreciate the humor as you work with the script. More than simply a comedy about infidelity, it's about accepting the consequences of our actions, dealing with emotions and passion, and the upshot of irresponsible, self-centered motivations.“
This is Menin’s second trip around the New Works block. He made his debut in 2005 with “Sid’s Place.” Last November, he teamed up with Jack Santos to create “Blind Date” for Random Acts.
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Bruce Menin’s “Last Night” will be staged Jan. 29 at the New Works Festival, two weekends of full-length plays as staged readings and memorized 10-minute and one-act plays. The festival runs Jan. 21-22 and Jan. 28-29 at the Firehouse Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Market Square. Newburyport. For a complete schedule, click here. A limited number of four-day passes will be offered at $36. Single show tickets are $12.For information, call 978-462-7336 or check out the Firehouse web.