Local director Bartlett Sher just received his first New York review and describes himself as “relieved” that the New York Times liked his work on “The Nest,” which closes Sunday at off-Broadway’s Perry Street Theatre.
Sher, who is not one to bow to any kind of authority, hurried to clarify his statement. “Actually, I could care less,” he explained. “But I’m relieved for the artistic institution and the actors.”
The artistic institution is the New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW), which chose Sher as one of three in its New Directors Project scheduled to make their off-Broadway directing debuts this year. Sher, an instructor at San Diego State University and artistic director of the Plus Fire Performance Group, was the first winner to be selected from San Diego. According to James C. Nicola, NYTW artistic director, a close runner-up was Scott Feldsher, artistic director of the local Sledgehammer Theatre.
Critic Mel Gussow, the only reviewer to write about the show to date, first lavished praise on the play itself, which tells the story of a blue-collar couple taking extra jobs to support a coming baby, only to find that one of those jobs--dumping toxic wastes--ends up poisoning their child.
He praised Sher for showing the couple as “a portrait of contentment, but with a gentle edge of self-parody”; he particularly liked Sher’s innovative use of a real 8-month-old baby who “meets every cue and is never at a loss for silence.”
Rob Murphy’s “crisp” setting and Roger Downey’s “conversational” translation of the Franz Zaver Kroetz play also drew approval. Sher, who had worked with both Murphy and Downey in San Diego, brought them both in on the project.
Murphy designed the set for Sher’s production of “The Strong Breed” as well as the La Jolla Playhouse’s “The Fool Show” and the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s “Six Women With Brain Death or Expiring Minds Want to Know.” Downey translated “Lulu” and “Figaro Gets a Divorce” at the La Jolla Playhouse.
The New York Times ran Gussow’s article Thursday, four days after opening night. Now Sher is back in town, teaching at SDSU and wondering, he said, “if anyone in San Diego will hire me to do anything again now that I’ve worked in New York.”
He said he would love to restage “The Nest” here, but, for now, his only plans are to work with his wife, Carla Kirkwood, on staging “Maria on Highway 94,” the opening production for Sushi Gallery’s Neofest in April. The next play Sher will direct is “The Wakefield Mystery Cycle” at the University of Leeds in London in May.