NEW YORK CITY: “I never know what I’m going to write about before I start writing—I never have a plan,” declares playwright Bathsheba Doran, whose latest work, The Mystery of Love & Sex, runs at Lincoln Center Theater through April 26 in a production directed by Sam Gold and starring Diane Lane and Tony Shalhoub.
Love & Sex, which toys with themes of race, religion and sexuality, revolves around a pair of twentysomethings (who may or may not be in love with each other) and their parents. Doran, who also writes for television series such as “Boardwalk Empire,” “Masters of Sex” and “Smash,” says the key element in the new play’s composition was structure.
“This play is modeled like a detective story,” the playwright explains. That means aspects of the story shift from scene to scene so that the audience’s understanding of the story continually evolves. “It’s a play about people figuring things out about themselves,” she elaborates. “Tony Shalhoub actually plays a writer of detective fictions. The characters are mysteries to themselves and mysteries to each other. As you figure out who you are, you also keep secrets from yourself.”
Doran admits that her plays are “always extremely personal,” which isn’t to say they are autobiographical. “Every character in the play is a refraction of something I’ve been through—but this play is set in the South, and I’m English.”
Moreover, Doran had recently had a child when she began writing Love & Sex, which allowed her to look back at her twenties with a new perspective and clarity. “At 21, you are throwing dinner parties and ready to enter the world,” she says with a smile and a shrug, “but later on you realize you have a lot of experience yet to come that will dramatically change you.”