Pioneer Theatre Company shines the light on another new play this weekend. Part of the theatre’s Play-by-Play series, “i” was written by Jeff Talbott and will be performed Jan. 27 and 28 as a staged reading.

Much like the other plays in the series, “i” examines personal relationships and how people stay connected. While this involves aspects of a love story, whether or not it actually fits into that category is up for debate. The protagonist is Sarah, who has been having a rough time lately. Things have seemingly improved since she changed doctors and a nice man named Jake has entered her life, however. Of course, there are still questions to be answered for this hero. Is Jake as nice as he appears? And what’s really going on with the doctor?

Unlike a full production, the Play-by-Play series hosts staged readings with scripts in hand. These readings give audiences the chance to experience new work in a more intimate setting, often smaller venues than Pioneer’s main stage. This allows audiences to get acquainted with the work before it moves on to larger scale productions.

In previous years, Pioneer has added plays from this series to their season; this has been the case with both “Alabama Story” and “Two Dollar Bill.”

“i” stars local actress Susanna Florence as Sarah, who has also been seen in “Fiddler on the Roof” and “One Man, Two Guvnors” at Pioneer. This is not her first time with the Play-by-Play series either. She also participated in readings for “Speculator Spirits,” “A March Tale” and “Honor Killing” in previous seasons. She is joined by Todd Gearhart as Jake Bellamy, whose credits include Broadway’s “Bye Bye Birdie” and the regional premier of “Sunset Boulevard.” In film, he has also appeared in the CBS series, “Blue Bloods,” and popular film, “The Dark Knight Rises.” Colleen Baum and Alexandra Harbold complete the cast, both familiar with the Pioneer stage. Baum was most recently seen in “Oliver!” and Harbold made appearances in “Slow Food” and “A Public Education” in previous Play-by-Play readings.

Director Wes Grantom has credits that take him far and wide. Most recently, he has directed productions of “Toxic Avenger,” “Lone Star Spirits” (previously titled “Speculator Spirits,” mentioned above), “Eager to Lose” and “The Steadfast.” He has also worked on Broadway as both a resident and associate director and is a recipient of the Drama League Fellowship, “a program designed to help early and mid-career directors take the next big step in their professional evolution,” according to the Fellowship’s website.

“i” playwright Jeff Talbott’s work includes “The Submission” and “The Gravedigger’s Lullaby,” as well as “A Public Education,” which received a reading at Pioneer. Many of his plays have also received workshops and readings at the MCC Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare, Premiere Stages and Crowded Outlet.

Readings of “i” will take place in the Dumke Auditorium of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 27 and 28, with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. on Jan. 28. While there are not student discounts for the Play-byPlay, tickets are available for $10 at the box office or online at www.pioneertheatre.org/play-by-play.

 

c.heiner@dailyutahchronicle.com

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