From the Artistic Director
By Ari Roth, Founding Artistic Director
At first blush, Inherit the Windbag – satiric and brilliant, blithe, absurdist, and patrician – might seem like a strange new experience
for Mosaic Theater-goers. We’re in Alexandra Petri-ville, for starters, with odes to peanut butter and Aristophanes, and that’s a deliciously illusive, frequently punny place to be. Different fare, perhaps, and yet Alexandra’s work shares properties with Mosaic DNA that mark it as a proud bearer of our Locally Grown brand. Recipient of a Trish Vradenburg Play Commission, Petri shares a second home with fellow Vradenburg Play Commission recipient from last season, Ally Currin (Sooner/Later), as both have been star contributors to The Welders, a local troupe run by playwrights (gotta love a theater run by playwrights!). And you gotta love a theater that devotes mainstage and workshop slots to daring new works that express burning thoughts, bold ideas about this country at a sensitive moment; an inflection point, as it were; and 1968 was one of those moments. And now we’re at another inflection point; a moment, flush with stock market froth, where we’re heading into increasingly dangerous waters.
We are, in fact, at it again, and this play will suggest, once we reach the end of the debate with its existential scoreboard, that history may be compelling Buckley and Vidal to be right back at it for more! Endless conflict. A yawning chasm of partisan divide. That’s what Buckley and Vidal represent: Everlasting enmity. Or maybe not. At Mosaic, we’ve learned to see commonalities amid difference. Look at all these two privileged men share. Surely that’s one of Petri’s points; that these antagonists are more estranged siblings. For not only do they despise each other; they also, seemingly, in this compellingly explored production, come to feel for each other, even as they remain at each other’s throats.
These men may be destined to battle to a draw, but isn’t that the point? That they have equal value, in the end, and all that divides them is less than what binds them through class and despair. In that way, Buckley and Vidal might be showing us how absurd it all is; this raging avarice. As we slog through our current primaries, and our erstwhile playwright, also a brilliant political columnist slogging away herself from primary state to state, jetting back to rehearsal to continue fine-tuning her play, we collectively are making artful progress. How depressing it is on the one hand – to see us as a country in an endless loop of dispute, screaming at each other; not making progress. Yet Petri’s portrait is an angry prophecy, showing us a preening set of debaters going at it non-stop while the world (like their 1968 ABC Studio) crumbles around them, as our current environment now literally degenerates, and we are locked in endless stasis, our playwright screams (and I paraphrase): "Can we break the cycle?"
I think that’s one message that emerges from this erudite play. It’s a warning and, like Buckley’s last words, a cris de couer. Is it a hope to hold onto? Direction we must seek? We are thrilled to be hosting this hilarious departure; grateful for the guidance of our director Lee Mikeska Gardner; awestruck by the ability of our amazing actors to, yes, remember all those lines and bring humanity to these icons. Fascinating to be back in the 60s for this world premiere. We’ll be going back to the 50s for the world premiere staging of The Till Trilogy next. Don’t miss it!