“Monsoon Season” is a demented romantic comedy by playwright Lizzie Vieh, coming to New York City after making waves at the esteemed Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Presented by All for One Theater, the play will run from October 21st through November 17th at the Rattlesticks Playwrights Theater in NYC.
“Monsoon Season” is set in Phoenix, Arizona, and follows the story of Julia and Danny, a separated couple whose lives are descending into chaos via a toxic mess of pills and paranoia. Fraught with tension, hallucinations, and twisted humor, this romantic thriller expertly chronicles the inner workings of unhealthy, even downright deranged, relationships while shedding light on the dysfunctions and obsessions that keep people together, even when they should be apart. Tickets are resonably priced at $25, are available here.
This New York debut marks the US premiere of “Monsoon Season” and playwright Lizzie Vieh recently took some time to discuss the piece, her career, and her aspirations for the future.
Meagan Meehan (MM): What drew you to playwriting in particular?
Lizzie Vieh (LV): I love stories in lots of different forms – TV, movies, books – but playwriting appeals to me especially as a method of story-telling because of its immediacy, collaborative nature, and its unique ability to tell stories in a non-realistic fashion. I also really like plays because there’s no definitive “version” of a play. Unlike a book or movie, which has one finished product, a play (hopefully) gets done over and over again, with lots of different interpretations. It’s a living thing that keeps changing and developing. Plays are inclusive; you don’t just stand apart from them and admire them—if you really love a play, you can do it yourself!
MM: Why does the theme of fraught relationships appeal to you so much?
LV: Cause that’s drama, baby! I mean, you could get psychological and say that I use plays as a means of coping with/exploring my own relationships, but the truth is, I think all plays contain depictions of fraught relationships. It’s the bread-and-butter of theater. As much as I dislike conflict in my day-to-day life, in my plays, the more fraught the better. Nobody really wants to see a play about people getting along.
MM: How much of a role do your own experiences as an Arizonan-turned-New-Yorker have on your work?
LV: When I tell people in New York City that I’m from Arizona, they tend to say some version of “Oh Wow! I’ve never met/don’t know many people from Arizona.” It makes me feel like a bit of an outsider to be from a part of the country that people here consider exotic. I guess I feel like I have a unique perspective, having grown up in a part of the country that is so one-of-a-kind in terms of climate, culture, history, and natural beauty. Feeling like an outsider myself, I like to set my plays in off-the-beaten-path locations that are not often portrayed in media.
MM: “Monsoon Season” started out as a short play. Tell us about why it became a full-length play.
LV: “Monsoon Season” is sort of the little play that could, in that it just kept growing and growing as various different opportunities arose. I first wrote the play in 2015 as a seven-minute long one-man show for SHOTZ, a monthly festival of short plays produced by Amios, a New York City theater company. Richard Thieriot was the actor assigned to me for that original version, and we really enjoyed working on it together. So, in 2016 I expanded the play to 20 minutes and we performed it at the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival (and were thrilled to be one of the finalists!) Then in 2018, Richard, who had a previous relationship with All For One Theater, proposed expanding the play once again for a workshop with AFO. At this point AFO offered us a production, provided I expanded it to a full-length play. I was thrilled at the idea, but wasn’t sure Danny’s story needed to be (or even could be) any longer. It was at this point that our director Kristin McCarthy Parker proposed telling Julia’s side of the story – and that brings us to our 80ish-minute production today!
MM: The play features some really heavy themes like drug addiction, mental illness, and child abuse/neglect, so how challenging was it to include elements of humor into the script?
LV: Not challenging at all. I think the only way to tackle really heavy issues without going numb is to find the humor. Pain and suffering stop registering with an audience if there isn’t any levity or tonal variation to break it up. I also have a very dark sense of humor, so that helps. I think there’s something very funny (and sad) about someone trying very, very hard to do something and being so incredibly bad at it. Being your own worst enemy is a theme that I find very painful, and very funny. We’re doomed, but we just keep trying!
MM: What is your favorite scene and line from “Monsoon Season” and why do they stand out to you so much?
LV: That’s tough. I think it would have to be Danny, drunk and depressed, talking to his pet hermit crab and asking it, “Why do you hate me?” I love that scene because it’s just so sad and pathetic and funny. Danny is so lonely and really needs a friend, some sympathetic companionship, and the only being he can turn to is an animal that, to human eyes, has no emotions at all. Like, Danny thinks the hermit crab hates him, but what would a hermit crab that loves you even look like? I think it’s very sad and very telling that Danny assumes the hermit crab hates him; the hermit crab probably doesn’t even know he exists.
MM: What was it like to have this play performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
LV: It was a wild ride. I had never been to Edinburgh before, and was exhilarated and overwhelmed by the crowds and the sheer number of performances going on at any given time. I had to dramatically cut the play to fit into our 60-minute slot, so everything felt fast, intense, and breathless. It was a blast! That said, I’m excited to see the play at its regular length, without any time constraints.
MM: What do you hope audiences will take away from your play?
LV: I hope audiences take away that romantic compatibility is complicated, and that there’s someone out there for everyone, no matter how screwed up you are. I didn’t know it when I started writing the play—I thought it was a crime mystery—but it ended up being a love story, albeit a pretty twisted one. I think I’m getting sentimental in my old age! As far as the darker themes of the play, I hope the audience walks away from the play questioning what victimization is, and what makes a person a victim.
MM: Do you have other theatrical or writing projects coming up that you would like to discuss?
LV: I’m currently working on a play called “Sublimis,” in which the Bronte sisters, long dead, suddenly regain consciousness inside a radiator. It’s very strange and unlike anything I’ve ever written before. There’s no murders so far, so that’s a first for me. Just kidding! Kind of….
“Monsoon Season” will be performed at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (224 Waverly Place) in New York City. For more information on Lizzie Vieh visit https://www.lizzievieh.com/