By Matt Cutugno
Indio, CA, USA
It was the winter of 1978 and I was living at a trailer park in Normal, Illinois. In fact, things weren't normal at all. I was 27-years-old and, in a word, directionless.
I had graduated from college, and followed a girlfriend to the great, flat Midwest, where I knew no one but her, and had no prospects other than hanging out and being her boyfriend. I got a job at a steak house, working for minimum wage. (I was in charge of making sure there were enough French fries ready for customers.) My life in Normal was not a recipe for success or happiness and sure enough, our relationship failed.
One day I found myself on a bus, heading on a long trip from Normal to my hometown of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The trip took two days and one sleepless night, curled in the seat of a Greyhound. Not much to do but watch the changing scenery, try to sleep, and, in my case, write.
I had recently read a famous play by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg entitled "A Dream Play." Since my nights were restless and I was preoccupied (if not obsessed) with my former girlfriend, I decided to write my own "dream play." I called it "Slow Boat." It's about a directionless young man (Bud) who, in a dream, buys a ticket on a slow boat to China. Once onboard, he's confronted by various surreal characters including a morbidly philosophic ship's captain and an ever-present former girlfriend, who seems to date every man she meets, including the ship's first mate. During the course of the play (and Bud's boat ride) he learns that perhaps his problems aren't so important at all.
My own destiny soon afterwards took me to New York, where I lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn for many years, wrote plays, and had them produced. But my "dream play" never saw a production and was soon enough forgotten.
Fast forward to the year 2009. In the economic downturn I lost a job of long-standing that I had at a law firm. Being a dogged optimist, I decided to take the opportunity to use my involuntary free time to revisit some of my old writing. I found "Slow Boat" which I hadn't seen or thought about in years. I read it, liked it, and sent it out to a couple theaters. One group, The Complete Theatre Company in Manhattan, responded. It opened on May 15th of this year under the direction of Graydon Gund and was produced by Annie Ward.
Thirty-five years from creation to production—a very slow boat indeed.
"Slow Boat" – The Complete Theatre Company Production, May 2013
Rehearsal of "Slow Boat"
(credit: Graydon Gund)
Bud: Alex Levitt
Clerk: Emi Asano
Worker One: Maria Michaels
Worker Two: Alzie Rejouis
Captain: Steven DeFonte
Linda: Sophia Beijer
First Mate: Neyssan Falahi
John: Patt Nardone
Pierre: Micah Henning
Director: Graydon Gund
Producer: Annie Ward