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And So We Come Forth: The Apple Family: A Dinner on Zoom,

Top l-r: Maryann Plunkett & Jay O. Sanders; Sally Murpy. Bottom: Laila Robins, Stephen Kunken. (Poto: Jason Ardizzone-West).
Ten years ago, when Richard Nelson wrote The Hopey Changey Thing, about the Apple Family of Rhinebeck, New York (Nelson's own home town), he saw it as an ephemeral concept — lasting only as long as its brief run as part of the Public Theater's LAB productions. But somehow this realistically styled play with its time frame paralleling a pivotal moment in America (mid-term election day November 2, 2010 ) touched a response that led to three more plays that would have viewers sharing a meal with the Apples on a date paralleling another historically meaningful moment. The lunches and dinners in Barbara Apple's home took on the aura of a Chekhovian landscape and were successful enough for Nelson to introduce us to another Rhinebeck family, The Gabriels and most recently a new family, the Michaels.

The fact that, the actors on board for these family gatherings were so perfectly attuned to Nelson's conversational style helped to endear the characters to the plays' many fans. While scheduling conflicts required a few cast changes along the way, the replacements fit right in. (Links to Currtainup's reviews of all these shows when they opened at the Public's Anspacher Theater at the end of this piece),

So what does an always productive playwright locked down in his home do to keep up hope for a return to normalcy for the theater ? Being the innovator he is, Mr. Nelson heads for his computer to write a play that has the Apples dealing with and reflecting on how this unprecedented disaster changed them and the world in general. Like his unexpectedly durable series, his s new family get-together takes place in real time but structured be seen on screen on a zoomed set without the usual bells and whistles supplied by set and costume designers

Mr. Nelson created his first Zoomed dinner party for the Apples just after the lockdown and social distancing began, and infections spiraled. What Do We Need to Talk About didn't dwell on painful details, Nelson did have Richard Apple staying with his sister Barbara to help her recover from a virus related hospital stay. He put sister Marian in a nearby house and her own Zoom frame. The youngest sister Jane and her partner Tim were living in separate rooms of their apartment because he was running a suspicious low fever, and so occupied third and the third fourth frames

And So We Come Forth which moves the time frame from April to the first week in July when the pandemic is moving into phase one, certainly establishes Nelson as a master of this new form of playwriting. He has managed to make both these ventures into an integral part of what he calls his Rhinebeck Panorama. Fortunately, the five core cast members turn out to be terrific Zoomers and overcome the constraints of being confined to their screened enclosures. While they can't be together in Barbara's house, preparing and eating a meal. While I miss seeing all this bustling about and the actual smells of what's being served, the more distanced Zoom dinner make every word spoken crystal clear and and compensates with wonderful close-up views of the actor's faces.

While no one is sick, this time around, three months of this unnatural way of living and interacting have frazzled nerves. Details about the food for the together but apart dinner (The choice of indian takeout is a nice plug a for a real l Rhinebeck restaurant), random chitchat and shared anecdotes trigger broader concerns and fears in everyone on stage — oops, I mean, screen.

Richard (Jay O. Sanders) is still with Barbara (Maryann Plunkett ). Since Plunkett and Sanders are married, they can safely be together in one frame. As he announced in the April play, Richard is still planning to retire from his job in Governor Cuomo's Albany office and buy a house in Rhinebeck but as he at one point declares "pretty much everything, to me, now feels up in the air. And unreal. Unsettled. Uncertain." With Cuomo so much in the news, I found it rather strange that Nelson had Richard opt to cover all that's going on in Albany with a brief comment and instead spend a lot of time on an anecdote about a lawyer friend's poet father.

For Marion the socially distanced existence has made her especially sensitive about not touching or being touched by another human being for three months. Jane is the most obviously on edge sister. Her fear about contacts with people who may be virus carriers is exacerbated by a situation involving Tim's daughter whose high school graduation has him temporarily in Brooklyn and thus in his own frame. space.

While we never meet Tim's daughter or Barbara's former student who suddenly no longer wants to email back and forth with her. But here's where the playwright fails to make his Rhinebeckers less self-involved and instead talk at least for a bit about how this Black Lives Matter movement can't be ignored — even in, or especially, in a town with a predominately White population. (Statics list White: 87.96% Asian: 5.46% African American: 3.60% ) .

The student who no longer finds the advice and opinions of his white, middle aged English teacher compelling. Since that student probably joined the town's other young people in a Black Lives Matter protest march. That march made a local psper's headline on June 2. Too bad Mr. Nelson ignored that event instead of having characters who've always been committed to a sound value system., at least mention it. Perhaps a future Nelson play would be a gathering of younger and older generation characters. Hopefully, theaters will finally reopen and they won't have to do it on Zoom.

Links to reviews of all the Rhinebeck plays when staged at the Public Theater
The Applee Family Quartet
That Hopey Changey Thing
Sweet and Sad
Regular Singing, Scenes From Life in the Country

The Gabriels and the Michaels
What Did You Expect
Women of a Certain Age
The Michaels: Conversations During Difficult Times
y been running a fever-- and is with his daughter who Jane w
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And So We Come Fort h: The Apple Family: A Dinner on Zoom
Written and directed by Richard Nelson
Cast: Stephen Kunken (Tim), Sally Murphy (Jane), Maryann Plunkett (Barbara), Laila Robins (Marian), and Jay O. Sanders (Richard)
Time: A day in early July, 2020. 7:30pm – 9pm Place: Viewer's computer
Setting: Rhinebeck homes of Barbara, Marion and Jane Apple; Brooklyn aparment of Tim's never seen ex-wife and husband
Running Time: 70 minutes, in 4 scenes
Available to watch for free on YouTube ( and
Produced by by Apple Productionsto as a fundraiser for the Actors Fund. Review by Elyse Sommer based of July 1, 2020 premiere of 8 week on line run. Produced by by Apple Productionsto as a fundraiser for the Actors Fund. The play, written by Nelson from his home in Rhinebeck, New York, will premiere at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be available to watch for free on YouTube here and also at and will continue for eight weeks. It is a fundraiser for The Actors Fund.

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