THE WORK OF AUBURN NATIVE playwright Tim Pinckney will come to life in a world debut this Friday when “Ever So Humble” opens as the Hangar Theatre’s next summer production. Just after the opening, Pinckney and Hangar director Peter Flynn will be at Buffalo Street Books Cooperative on Monday evening, July 18, to do a reading of the play and answer questions from the audience. This surprising and hilarious play was inspired by the E.M. Forster’s classic novel “Howard’s End,” so much of the discussion is sure to be about the parallels between the play and the novel.
“Howard’s End” is as much about the chokehold of social class as it is about the family ties that define individual identity and preclude a person’s ability to “choose their own destiny” in the strictest sense of the term. Forster’s characters attempt to make connections across social classes and tragedy is the result; despite Leonard Bast’s sensitivity, charming tastes, poetic dreams, and moral convictions, he was still crushed by the decrepit rage of a greedy member of the ruling class. The circumstances that precipitated the novel’s disastrous interaction began with quandaries of real estate: the dying wishes of a proprietress are ignored, and simultaneously, a middle class family is displaced when their landlord wants to install higher paying tenants in their place.
In contemporary Brooklyn, class tensions continue to ripple between property owners and hamstrung renters hard-pressed to push enough dimes together to pay the outrageous rents and sublet costs in a city inhabited by some of the richest people in the world. This is the setting for Pinckney’s re-imagining of the “Howard’s End” dilemma: how, and where, will the middle class live? In an era of housing busts, deflating property values, and foreclosed mortgages, this question burns with just as much intensity and urgency now as it ever has. As Nick and his two friends Bobby and Dana find themselves having trouble finding an apartment, they befriend Howard, a property owner with responsibilities that include a beautiful home, a partner of 30 years, and a child. The younger characters are presumably meant to mirror Forster’s Schlegels, who themselves reflected the open-minded intellectual values of the Bloomsbury Group, and their interactions with Howard play out from there.
“Ever So Humble” was workshopped at the Hangar as well as Rattlestick Playwrights theatre and further developed in the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s playwright’s unit. The play is the product of a happy collaboration between long time friends Pinckney and Flynn. The cast of seven features Andréa Burns (In the Heights), Philip Hoffman (Falsettos, Into the Woods) and Eric T. Miller (LAByrinth Theatre’s Sweet Storm). Poignant and smart, Ever So Humble will attempt to remind the audience that in the 21st century, our home and our family are what we make them.
Tickets for Ever So Humble range from $18 to $45. Tickets can be purchased at www.hangartheatre.org or by phone at (607) 273-4497. The recently renovated theatre is located at 801 Taughannock Blvd. The Hangar business office is 171 East State Street, Suite 230 in Center Ithaca.
The Buffalo Street Books reading and Q&A will be Monday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Buffalo Street Books Cooperative.