Derek Ahonen: The Bad and the Better
Derek, THE BAD AND THE BETTER sounds like it may be the most ambitious play yet in a string of very ambitious works that you have written in the past several years. Can you talk a little about what the play is about, and what the impetus was for creating it?
Without giving too much away because it is a detective story in which there are turns, and surprises and nothing is what it seems… The play is centered on these two brothers, (both detectives), who are estranged and working on two separate cases. One in New York City and one on Long Island. As the story goes deeper it turns out that they’re both working on the same case with very dangerous ramifications. It’s a conspiracy story of the soul. BUT… it’s funny and thoughtful and hopefully of it’s time. Things keep popping up in the news that are very similar to certain situations in this play and everyone is looking around at each other in rehearsal like… “Are we sitting on something here?” Who knows? I just hope people find it highly entertaining.
This is the largest cast play you've created, as far as I know. Is there any difference in your process in creating this type of large cast work? Why did you want to make a play with so many people in it? Was this your initial impulse, or did it just evolve from the material as it developed?
I’ve wanted to write a play that required a large cast for years. I like to challenge myself to see if I’m capable of rising to the occasion and having 28 actors on this was quite that challenge. Before this though I just never had the material to make it work naturally. This particular story needed MANY people and it just so happened that there were many actors I’ve wanted to work with for years and this show naturally presents that wonderful opportunity.
You have generally directed your own plays in the past. What made you decide to use a separate director for this project? What’s the collaboration process with Daniel—how are you working together? Are you involved in rehearsals, or staying away?
Mainly the fact that I love Aukin's work as a director. He’s really brilliant at these nuanced, minimalistic moments. And I write these big moments of lunacy with a lot of velocity so I thought these qualities could mesh in interesting ways. I am at most all rehearsals. We work very closely together. It’s a good relationship and we crack each other up. Hopefully we can collaborate again.
Do you think that you as a playwright and the Amoralists as a company have a particular aesthetic in terms of the type of work you create? If so, how does THE BAD AND THE BETTER fit into that?
I can’t comment on the other plays we choose to produce because that aesthetic changes with each new piece, but the Ahonen/Amoralists plays are about people fighting to keep their sanity in an insane world. The result of that struggle keeps the plays at a breakneck pace that allows my comedy and drama to co-exist in the same moment. Because it’s that insanity when you’re going crazy in which you could laugh and cry at the same time.
Do you have a favorite among your plays? Which one and why (or why not)?
Happy In The Poorhouse. It’s the only play of mine where I can’t find any shortcuts in the writing. I know Pied Pipers put us on the map but I feel embarrassed by certain moments of obvious bad writing in that piece. So I try not to think of it. On a side note… The Bad And The Better is kind of a sequel to The Pied Pipers Of The Lower East Side. Those Pipers characters are not reappearing, but if you’re a fan of Pipers, you’ll see how on SOOOOOO many levels that The Bad and The Better is following up on everything Pipers was trying to do.Published on June 1, 2012