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The painful gestation of 'Procreation,' Justin Tanner's new play

July 10, 2010 |  8:15 am

JT The director David Schweizer is rehearsing the large cast of “Procreation,” Justin Tanner’s new play about, guess what, a hilariously dysfunctional, lower-middle-class clan in a nondescript suburb of Los Angeles. This milieu has been Tanner’s rich playground for as long as he’s been writing — two decades now. Schweizer, a slim, silver-haired man with large, soulful eyes and a mellifluous voice, wants the actors to re-play a scene, going back to “the outburst.”

“Which outburst?” asks the actress Patricia Scanlon.

This is a play in which people say things out loud that most family members only think. “You kids have been an enormous disappointment to me,” says a mother, calmly and with a smile, to her brood. One daughter describes her mom as “that twisted succubus standing next to you” and later is driven to yell: “You’re gonna die first, Mom, get used to it!”

Tanner often directs his own work, which is rife with lightning-fast and overlapping repartee reminiscent of a Howard Hawks film. But this time Schweizer has taken the helm, and he is parsing each character’s emotional sand trap with surgical precision. Tanner, who is standing in as understudy for an absent actor, looks pained as he watches Schweizer direct the cast.

“I don’t like to see how the sausage is made,” he says.

To read the full Arts & Books account of Tanner's new play, Procreation,” click here.

-- Laurie Winer

Photo: the playwright, Justin Tanner

Credit: Gary Friedman/L.A. Times