‘Smash’ writer Rebeck brings a new ‘The Way of the World’ to D.C.

Brandeis University News

Writer-director Theresa Rebeck above the set for “The Way of the World” at the Folger Theatre. (Bill O’Leary) What’s a hard-nosed Hollywood survivor like “NYPD Blue” and “Smash” writer Theresa Rebeck doing inside the cool, Shakespeare-ghosted marble of the Folger Theatre? Letting blue language fly in her update of the Restoration comedy “The Way of the World,” for one thing. William Congreve’s takedown of money-grubbing nuptials is being updated to the Hamptons in a voice that sounds like pure Rebeck: energetic, contemporary, funny and brutally honest about gender and leverage. “It reminded me about lives of the 1 percent and how people misbehave when their values are that distorted around sex and money and power,” Rebeck explains of her “Way of the World” update, which starts Tuesday and includes far naughtier modern byplay than the Folger’s audience is accustomed to. “Congreve is pretty salty, too,” says Folger’s artistic producer, Janet Alexander Griffin, who contends that Rebeck’s wit is in sync with the original. The Folger rarely has living writers on site, so Griffin gave Rebeck — who has a PhD in Victorian melodrama — a tour of the rare material in the Shakespeare library’s vaults. “She lit up,” Griffin said. The prolific Rebeck has written almost a play per season since emerging nearly 30 years ago; bruising realistic comedies are her primary line, from the post-9/11 dinner-party-in-hell “Omnium Gatherum” (a Pulitzer finalist co-written with Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros) to the recent sexism-in-the-office “What We’re Up Against.” She wouldn’t seem to be the kind of writer who needs the lift provided by the Women’s Voices Theater Festival, the new-works project sweeping the city over the next two months with “The Way of the World” among the first of 24 slated shows. Rebeck’s plays have been produced across the country and more than a dozen times in New …

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