It will be theater in the ‘rough’ in more ways than one when Bonney/King Productions brings Lyle Kessler’s dark drama, “Orphans,” to Conklin Barn in Huntington for a two-week run opening Thursday.
Hosting the show is the circa 1830 Conklin Barn, one of the few surviving hand-built shelters from the early days of the Long Island settlers, which was moved from Laurel Hollow to its present location in 1990. The rugged structure provides an intimate venue suited to theater in the round and for this drama, which explores the vagaries of the human soul and longings of individuals who are rough around the edges.
“It is a diamond in the rough,” said Sean King of Smithtown, who co-produced and stars in the show as Harold, a complex father figure.
The story line follows two brothers, Treat and Philip, orphaned at an early age, who are living in an unconventional world of their own creation in a dilapidated North Philly row house. Treat supports the pair through petty thievery while Philip, instilled by his brother with fear of the outside world, is a virtual shut-in. The dynamics shift when Treat brings home Harold, an inebriated businessman who has reasons of his own for assuming the uneasy role of surrogate father to the two dysfunctional young men.
Treat, the volcanic brother, played by Aaron Dalla Villa, and the child-like, sensitive Philip, played by Jay William Thomas, were cast after 600 actors saw the ad in Backstage magazine, and turned out to audition in a Manhattan studio.
“Orphans” is the second summer theater production that King and Jim Bonney of Huntington have staged at the Conklin Barn. Bonney is at the helm again as director.
King and Bonney’s first production, “Prisoners and Criminals,” played to a sold-out house last summer. Based on an original script by Canadian playwright Jared Wright, “Prisoners and Criminals” garnered 2014 awards for Long Island’s Best Play, Actor and Director from Broadway World for Bonney and King.
Following this triumph, Bonney—electrified after he saw the Broadway revival of “Orphans” with Alec Baldwin and Ben Foster—was determined to bring it to Huntington audiences.
King, who has made a career of playing tormented souls, is equally excited about producing this show with Bonney.
“’Orphans’ premiered on stage in Los Angeles in 1983 with Joe Pantoliano of Sopranos’ fame and the late Lane Smith, who starred as Richard Nixon in ‘The Final Days,’” King said. “‘Orphans’ went on to be produced all over the world, including a very successful London run. It was nominated for a Tony for Best Revival of a Play.”
The story of lost boys who live on the outskirts of society, yet crave a normalcy, still resonates today, Bonney said of the drama with comic overtones.
The basis for the 1987 film starring Albert Finney and Matthew Modine, King said that this hard-hitting drama established Kessler as a playwright and showcases some of his finest writing. The playwright will be in attendance at the Sept. 4 performance, which will be followed by a question and answer period.
It is all part of King and Bonney’s vision to bring theater that takes audiences out of their comfort zones to Huntington.
“Audiences need to be exposed to all kinds of theater,” Bonney said. “We want to create a theater collective, a space where new playwrights can see their work come to life.”
The Conklin Barn is located at 2 High St. off New York Ave. in downtown Huntington. The show opens on Aug. 20 for a 12-performance run through Sept. 5. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com.