Three-time Obie Award winner Daniel Aukin’s work includes the recent acclaimed revival of Fool for Love by Sam Shepard at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman (also Williamstown Theatre Festival), Melissa James Gibson’s Placebo (Playwrights Horizons), The Fortress of Solitude (Dallas Theater Center and The Public Theater), Josh Harmon’s Bad Jews (Roundabout), Melissa James Gibson’s What Rhymes With America (The Atlantic), Sam Shepard’s Heartless (Signature), Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles (Lincoln Center Theater), Marius von Mayenburg’s The Ugly One (Soho Rep.), Itamar Moses’ Back Back Back (MTC), Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge (Arena Stage) and Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine (La Jolla Playhouse). As Artistic Director of Soho Rep. (1998-2006) premieres of new work include Mark Schultz’s Everything Will Be Different, Melissa James Gibson’s Suitcase and [sic], Mac Wellman’s Cat's-Paw, Quincy Long’s The Year of the Baby, and Maria Irene Fornes’ Molly's Dream. He teaches in the Directing Program at The New School for Drama. (As of February 2016)
Critic's Pick. AN IMPECCABLY ACTED COMEDY! Dan LeFranc’s ‘Rancho Viejo’ is sweet, hypnotic, and very funny.
Dan LeFranc: For a long time, it was really like a thousand pages of scenes. It didn’t have a story engine, necessarily. It just felt like more of an Ionesco play or something where we’re just here and this is what we’re doing and there’s no rhyme or reason to why certain scenes happen after other scenes. And there was a lot of fun in that. It was a lot of fun to read around a table. And I think Adam was also interested in that. Which is great.
The people who populate the fictional suburb of Rancho Viejo would probably never seek out, let alone read, a “Playwright’s Perspective” about a play called Rancho Viejo. Like most Americans, I’d guess, they’re only vaguely aware that playwrights still exist, and they’d only be moderately interested in hearing from one’s “perspective.” Not because they’re incurious, but because they prefer to watch television at home or read books or magazines and hang out with one another at the occasional get-together or barbecue.
In his playwright interview with me for ‘The Big Meal,’ Dan talked at some length about his insecurity as a writer in mining the territory of his youth, Southern California, as a setting for his literary endeavors. As a result, he said, he set his early work in abstract locations, à la Beckett. In time, Dan embraced his background and made it his own, but he has never quite embraced the ethos of Southern California as wholeheartedly as he does in Rancho Viejo.
In Dan LeFranc’s masterful new comedy of anxiety, Rancho Viejo, the question of whether or not we are living as we ought, or as we might, whether other people in other places might be living more nobly, expansively, joyfully, vitally, truthfully, creeps discomfitingly beneath the surface of a succession of backyard barbecues and suburban domestic gatherings, in an affluent Southern California town where nothing much ever seems to happen.
Rancho Viejo isn’t a real place. It is, as Dan LeFranc describes in the opening stage directions of his play, “a fictional affluent suburb in a temperate climate.” But while visiting my parents this past summer in the rolling, expansive suburban vistas of south Orange County, California, somewhere between Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita, I was pretty excited to stumble upon a road sign [lower photo] because a few years back, the first time Dan let me read a draft of Rancho Viejo, the world of this play instantly transported me back to the landscape I grew up in.