‘Deceit’ by Richard Ploetz: How Far Would You Go to Build a Secret Life?

“Deceit” is a suspenseful and compelling play by Richard Ploetz that reveals how far some people are willing to take their lies to protect the fragile nature of “being normal.” Theater for the New City will present the piece, directed by Andreas Robertz, January 10 to 27 in its Cino Theater.

Still waters run deep throughout this play, whose central character is a handsome everyday husband and father: an investment banker named Frank who sometimes calls himself Bob. As Frank, he plays the role of an ordinary heterosexual married man with an eight year old son. As Bob, he conducts a series of gay love affairs, enabled by Internet dating. His wife Helen, an urbane and sophisticated woman, is surprisingly unaware of his gamesmanship. She is editor of a popular magazine and her reporter, Ken, is researching a blockbuster story about “married men who date other men.” Ken’s expose will include secret information from a man he has been interviewing for several weeks, who goes by the name of…Bob. Meanwhile, Bob’s lover Jeffrey, a Hermes accessories salesman, cultivates a friendship with Helen that will raise the stakes–and thrill–of the discovery of his relationship with her husband.

Deceit- Steven Hauck (right) plays Frank/Bob, a man leading a double life; Joshua Zirger (left) plays a journalist who might expose him; Ethan Haberfield (center) plays the son of Frank/Bob.

As the walls between Frank’s separate lives grow increasingly thin, we realize that every adult character in this triangle–or is it pentagon?–is self-deceiving or deceiving others. This must be so, to maintain the compartmentalization upon which the deceit uneasily rests. The play is a symbolic and hard hitting take on extra-marital affairs. It glimpses into the human personality and asks if one can ever be truly oneself in our technology-based society, when Craigslist, Facebook, and Twitter give us facile new identities with artificial user names and profiles. Which side of us is real and which is used to get what we want in the moment?

This play is the Theater for the New City debut of playwright Richard Ploetz, who attended Yale Drama School and holds an MFA from the Columbia writing program. His plays have been presented through the years by WPA Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Theater Genesis, Ensemble Studio Theater, La MaMa and South Coast Repertory Theater (CA). Ploetz is also an active member of Emerging Artists Theatre, where this play was developed. It was originally inspired by a Katie Couric story on Internet dating, in which she passed herself off as somebody else and met a man who was posing as an anesthesiologist. This became a one-act that delved into how two such people would feel about each other and where their conversation might go. Invited to submit a piece to the Fresh Fruit Festival five years ago, Ploetz changed the play’s characters to two men and found, to his surprise, that he hardly had to change a word. That play, titled “The Anesthesiologist,” was subsequently enlarged after Ploetz read an investigative article in New York Magazine about married men who date men on the side. The central character then became three-lived, bridging his married relationship, his gay relationship, and his confessional relationship with the reporter (the only honest relationship of the three). The play, now named “Deceit,” focuses not only on the web of connections people secretly make, but also their compulsive need to be caught.

Director Andreas Robertz is a prolific German-born director who has been working principally in New York since 2006. He was in charge of productions for young audiences at the renowned Klecks Theater in Hanover and City Theater of Munster and was a guest director at theaters of the cities of Dortmund and Lippstadt. He also directed a series of plays by American authors at the avant-garde ARTheater in Cologne. In 2005, he directed “New Czech Voices,” a series of readings at in the Public Theater in NYC that was produced by the Immigrants’ Theater Project. His TNC productions include three plays by Mario Golden, “Love of Brothers,” “The Boxer’s Son” and “Confessions of a Sex Addict,” all staged in his capacity of Artistic Director of OneHeart Productions. He has also worked with the Martin E. Siegel Theater and Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. His awards include numerous prizes in Cologne, Dortmund and Oberhausen and the 2008 Golden Penguin Award (Germany) for best direction for the one-woman show, “Which Is The Best Drug For Me” by Kai Hensel.

Frank/Bob is played by Steven Hauck, who appeared on Broadway opposite Tovah Feldshuh in “Irena’s Vow” and appeared Off-Broadway in “One Arm” (directed by Moises Kaufman), “The Screwtape Letters” (West Side Theater), “Spy Garbo” (3-Legged Dog) and “King Lear” with Paul Sorvino. He appeared in “Phantom of the Opera” in Berlin, Vienna and Paris. His regional credits include “Art “and “Twelve Angry Men” at Geva and “Cyrano” at Milwaukee Rep. He appears in Spike Lee’s upcoming “Oldboy,” “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” “What Happens Next” (opposite Wendie Maleck) “Boardwalk Empire,” “Gossip Girl” and “30 Rock.”

Jeffrey is played by Mario Golden, a well-known Mexican-born actor, playwright, teacher and director. He is a member of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater’s Professional Playwrights Unit, HOLA and the Queer Latino Artists Collective. His signature performances include his own plays “The Boxer’ Son,” “Love of Brothers” and “Confessions of a Sex Addict.”

Frank’s wife, Helen, is played by Glory Gallo, who has appeared Off-Broadway in “Elephant Girls” and “Claymont,” presented by Emerging Artists, and “Guilty,” presented by The Cell Theatre Co. at The Acorn on Theater Row. She has also appeared in soaps, commercials and ABC’s primetime “What Would You Do?”

Tommy, the son of Frank and Helen, is played by Ethan Haberfield, who has appeared on Broadway as Michael Banks in “Mary Poppins” as well as in the recent film “Sinister” (with Ethan Hawke), “Sesame Street,” “30 Rock” and various commercials.

Ken, the reporter, is played by Joshua Zirger, a 2009 graduate of the William Esper Studio. Set and costume design are by Yankob Bakulic.

The play will be presented by Theater for the New City, from January 10 to 27, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. The tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for seniors and students. You can call the box office at (212) 254-1109 or visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

Jonathan Slaff
Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.