Darko Tresnjak

StageNotes

A Conversation with Darko Tresnjak, Director of The Engagement Party

By Theresa M. MacNaughton, Communications and Community Engagement Associate 

L-R: Actor Richard Bekins, Playwright Samuel Baum, Director Darko Tresnjak and actors Mia Dillon and Beth Riesgraf in rehearsal. Photo by Liss Couch-Edwards.

L-R: Actor Richard Bekins, Playwright Samuel Baum, Director Darko Tresnjak and actors Mia Dillon and Beth Riesgraf in rehearsal. Photo by Liss Couch-Edwards.

When did you first meet playwright Samuel Baum?

I met Sam Baum, the author of The Engagement Party in 2001, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival when he was a young actor. He told me that summer that he was also starting to write. Years later, we reunited.

How did you first come across the script for The Engagement Party?

Realizing that this is my last year as the artistic director of Hartford Stage, I thought about what I still wanted to do and I thought of Sam’s play, which I encountered a few years ago, and I reached out to him. He's got a wonderful career in Los Angeles in television, but I'm glad we snatched him for Hartford Stage for our production of The Engagement Party.

What resonates most with you about this story?

What I love about the play is that it's a very, very smart and entertaining and tight play. It's an increasingly rare achievement these days in that in the plotting in the storytelling is also the message of the play. A course of events is set in motion. Sam says that there is the practical mystery at the center of it and the psychological mystery, and both are revealed at the end. But actually, within the plotting, is also a very rich story; and I think that's a very skillful thing to do. Not many people can do it.

Actors Beth Riesgraf and Zach Appelman in rehearsal. Photo by Liss Couch-Edwards.

Actors Beth Riesgraf and Zach Appelman in rehearsal. Photo by Liss Couch-Edwards.

Talk to us about your cast and creative team.

It's a wonderful cast. I'm excited that the leading role, Josh – the host of The Engagement Party – is played by Zach Appelman, who played our Hamlet a few years ago. Audiences will remember him for his remarkable award-winning performance and I’m thrilled that he’s back leading the company. Beth Riesgraf, a wonderful actress based in Los Angeles, plays his fiancée. Two great veterans, Richard Bekins and Mia Dillon – who's done several plays here – they're joining Zach and Beth, and the rest of the company is also wonderful.

Set rendering for The Engagement Party courtesy of Alexander Dodge.

Set rendering for The Engagement Party courtesy of Alexander Dodge.

Alexander Dodge is designing the set. This is a play that takes place in every single room of a posh apartment on the Upper East Side. So, we realized that in a sense the production and the set – it’s another lead; it’s another leading character in the play. It took a while to figure it out with Alexander. It really is a puzzle. It took a while, but I'm really pleased with where we landed.