The New Sincerity Opens Bay Street Season

Bob Balaban directs The New Sincerity at Bay Street Theater
Bob Balaban directs The New Sincerity at Bay Street Theater, Photo: Courtesy Bay Street

Bay Street Theater’s 2015 Mainstage Season begins on May 26 with the world premiere production of The New Sincerity, a comedy written by up-and-coming playwright Alena Smith, running through June 14. Featuring a youthful cast, including Teddy Bergman from Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher and Justine Lupe from ABC’s hit show Cristela, The New Sincerity explores the swirling mix of love, politics, ambition, idealism and, inevitably, social media surrounding a group of four 20-something aspiring writers. The action focuses on what happens to this group when they become involved in a rowdy Occupy-style movement. Bay Street’s production is being directed by veteran character actor of stage and screen, Bridgehampton’s own Bob Balaban.

Balaban is excited to be staging Smith’s play. “Alena’s a very smart writer, funny and original,” he says. “The New Sincerity is going to be a lot of fun.” Balaban has quite a bit of history with the play, as he has been connected with it from the beginning and has been involved in two staged readings of it en route to Bay Street’s full production. It was at Balaban’s suggestion that Bay Street took up the play for the 2015 season.

“I love what [Bay Street’s Artistic Director] Scott Schwartz is doing there [at the theater],” says Balaban. “I met with him and said ‘I’d love to bring a play to you,’ and we took it from there.” Balaban sees Bay Street as a great place to launch The New Sincerity into the world. “The Bay Street audience is serious and friendly,” he notes, and also points out that the theater has a long history of presenting new plays. “This is a special work, and could move somewhere.”

The New Sincerity. It sounds like somebody’s bold pronouncement of a perceived cultural shift—like the kind of nebulous idea around which a university English department would theme an academic conference, or perhaps like the kind of catchphrase on which the editors at TIME would decide to theme a special issue and then would splash across the magazine’s cover in an attempt to claim naming rights to the zeitgeist. Inside the issue, a group of social critics would go on at length about the “death of irony” or something like that.

Of course, sincerity is usually roundly mocked in comedy, and since the play The New Sincerity is a comedy, we can assume that the title is meant to be ironic. This sets up a bit of a paradox from the get-go. For his part, Balaban is cryptic about the title, not wanting to give too much away. “Maybe the new sincerity is less sincere than the old irony,” he says, calling the title “a comment on itself.” In other words, in order to find out what it all means, you’ll have to see the play.

During the course of The New Sincerity’s run there will be several ways to see the show at a discount. Tuesday, May 26 will be a “Pay What You Can” performance at 7 p.m., with a limited number of tickets on sale, for what you’re able to pay, starting at 2 p.m. May 26. In addition, high school and college students with ID can receive one free admission to a Sunday 2 p.m. matinee performance of The New Sincerity. And returning this year is Talkback Tuesday with Artistic Director Scott Schwartz and members of the cast following each Tuesday performance except during preview week.

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