Christina Masciotti, whose 2010 play Vision Disturbance received rave reviews, is keen on representing language as she hears it. “It seems with experimental theatre there’s this spirit of ‘Let’s break everything!’ My contention has always been that the way people speak already does that—so let’s focus on representing accurately how people really speak. Beyond that, you don’t actually need to break anything.”
Masciotti’s latest play—Adult, which runs at New York City’s Abrons Arts Center through Feb. 15—certainly takes linguistic leaps in surprising directions. Adult is a two-hander about Tara, a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, and Stanley, a father mired in his own adolescence. It takes place in Stanley’s row house, which doubles as a gun shop. Tara is home on her first winter break from college, and issues keep surfacing. Meanwhile, the town is going through a kind of economic and ethnically charged turmoil.
Masciotti, who grew up in Reading, Pa., often finds herself taking notes when visiting her hometown. “Especially if it’s someone I’ve hooked in on as a character that I need for a story, I write everything down verbatim. That becomes the grounding and basis for a character’s pattern of speech. Pretty much everything I write is inspired by real people,” she says. Consider the following father-daughter exchange:
Stanley: Is that why you’re going to college? To have fun?
Stanley: To party?
Tara: No, I said partly. Jesus.
Masciotti seeks out the idiosyncrasies of how humans speak, “especially in moments of emotional crisis,” she says. “That’s what I mean when I say that allowing those idiosyncracies into the dialogue, regardless of how weird they sound or how wrong they are, can give access to a vulnerability that we all share. We’re all ill-equipped in the same way, because we all rely on language, and language has limits—it’s inadequate for all of us.”