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Canadian Playwright Vern Thiessen to Direct Own Masterpiece 'Apple'

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From April 17 to 28, The Drilling Company will present the New York premiere of "Apple" by Canadian playwright Vern Thiessen, a haunting tale of sex, secrets and second chances. The intense, soul-satisfying drama will be directed for the first time by its author.

This production comes on the heels of The Drilling Company's acclaimed hit comedy, "The Norwegians" by C. Denby Swanson, a strong, bitter and witty play about women scorned in Minnesota and the really, really nice gangsters-Norwegian hit men-they hire to whack their ex-boyfriends. The comedy is playing to capacity audiences through April 14.

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L-R: Sheri Graubert as Lyn, Hamilton Clancy as Andy and Samantha Slater as Samantha. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
"Apple" is a complex, turgid and powerful story that goes from reality-based drama to moving magical realism. Andy, a middle-aged government employee, is in trouble. He has been downsized from his job and his childless, loveless marriage to Lyn, an attractive, hard-driving real estate agent, is in crisis. He is spotted in a park and seduced by a vibrant, mysterious young woman named Samantha for (initially) anonymous sex. Andy, starved for emotional renewal, looks to her for salvation. But when his wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness, Andy must make a choice: to care for an estranged wife or run away with a woman he knows little about. As the play develops, the characters are matched up by surprising and uncomfortable coincidences: Lyn is Samantha's real estate broker and, later, Samantha is revealed to be an oncology resident on Lyn's medical team. The journey of Lyn's illness brings her to an unexpected and cleansing reconciliation with Andy. The play is written in conscience-exposing staccato dialogues that squeeze the audience carefully through a process of surprising discoveries. It is couched with the notion that bombshells of fate fall upon your life like apples: sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet.

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Hamilton Clancy as Andy, Sheri Graubert as Lyn. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
The work premiered in Edmonton in 2002 and has since been produced in Canada, Poland, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and, in our area, at New Jersey Rep in Long Branch (2008). The production at New Jersey Repertory was received as a "lyrical work on the nature of love" that "pares emotions to the cellular level" (Naomi Siegel, New York Times). The play has never before been directed by its author.

Vern Thiessen is considered one of the most diverse and successful playwrights his native Canada has produced. His plays have been produced in the U.S. (from New Orleans to Alaska), China, Europe and New Zealand. They include comedies, historical dramas, musicals and plays for young audiences. He has had two productions at the acclaimed Stratford Festival of

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L-R: Hamilton Clancy as Andy, Samantha Slater as Samantha. Photo by Adele Bossard.

Canada and three plays premiere off-Broadway in New York City, where he now lives and works. His best known works include: "Shakespeare's Will," "Apple," "Vimy," "Einstein's Gift," "Lenin's Embalmers" and "A More Perfect Union." His plays have been translated into French, German, Polish and Hebrew. Thiessen's many awards include the Governor General's Literary Award for "Einstein's Gift," Canada's highest honor for playwriting and the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. "Lenin's Embalmers" was a finalist for the same award in 2011. He has also been shortlisted for the prestigious Siminovitch Prize in Theatre and the Herman Voaden Competition. Other accolades include several Elizabeth Sterling Haynes awards, The Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition, and the Carol Bolt Award. The Drilling Company has produced premieres of his short plays "Valentine" and "Interest" (both now published in Canada) and two runs of the family classic, "Bird Brain."

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L-R: Sheri Graubert as Lyn, Hamilton Clancy as Andy. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
The actors are Sheri Graubert, Samantha Slater and Hamilton Clancy. Scenic design is by Yu-Han Huang. Lighting is designed by Tyler Learned. Costume design is by Holly Hoover.

The Drilling Company Theatre is located at 236 West 78th Street, 3 fl. Performances are April 17 to 28, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $18 general admission, $15 seniors & students; TDF accepted. The box office is Smarttix, (212) 868-4444, www.smarttix.com.

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