Two fetuses onstage singing Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.”
That’s one of the many strange images within Noah Haidle’s newest play Smokefall, a work he believes only makes sense in the context of theatre. “Two fetuses onstage sounds like the worst movie I’ve ever heard of!” Haidle exclaims. “But I think of a work of art that is untranslatable outside of its medium is a beautiful thing.”
Smokefall, a three-act work, premieres at South Coast Repertory in California, March 29–April 28, in a co-production with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. It had a reading at the 2012 Pacific Playwrights Festival and will be directed by Anne Kauffman. The play was originally commissioned by the Goodman, as part of a 12-play cycle, spanning 24 hours, performed in real time. The idea eventually got scrapped, but one image remained: two fetuses in the midst of being born, who now argue in the second act of Smokefall about the world outside of the womb.
The play also features a girl who refuses to speak, an apple tree that grows into a house, and a narrator named Footnote who addresses the audience and the characters. If Smokefall had a theme, it would be life’s twists and turns, though Haidle will not verify that.
“The play that exists is what I am comfortable with people seeing, but what it means to me personally is private,” he says. “If I do explain it, I’m priming an audience to watch it with a lens of what it means about me. It limits their ability to engage in their own way.” Smoky indeed.