From swindlers to adulterers, Theresa Rebeck’s characters frequently serve as good models of how not to behave. The characters in her latest play, “Poor Behavior,” playing now at The Duke on 42nd Street, are no exception.
It follows two couples on a weekend getaway that goes south after accusations of infidelity surface.
“Poor Behavior” is the 15th play Rebeck has presented in New York. It’s also her first New York production since leaving the NBC musical drama, “Smash,” which she created.
amNewYork spoke with the Brooklyn-based writer about her new play and the New York theater scene.
Is it true this plot is based on an experience you had?
It has roots in a disastrous weekend I spent with my husband and some other people. We were sharing a country home with another couple and there was an argument at the beginning of the weekend, which no one ever recovered from. I thought that was an interesting way to start thinking about writing a play, but I don’t want to lean too hard on that explanation. The brain does what it does with source material.
How has the show evolved since its debut?
When we did it in L.A., it felt like it was successful, but it became clear that it was hard for people to get on the ride of that central character and there were a couple things that I discovered in the playing of the show that needed to be seriously re-conceived. It was challenging and kind of exciting to examine what the play wants to do and how to do it for an audience.
What do you like about showing your work to New York audiences?
It’s where I live. It’s the center of the theater world. Caravaggio, when he got banished, just always wanted to get back to Rome, even though he never got into anything but trouble in Rome. So there’s a slight compulsion to it. But the greatest actors are in New York and I like working with them. And I like the passion of the audiences. There are a lot of people who just like going to theater all the time here.
How has theater changed since you first started showing your work here?
I think that Broadway has gotten more conservative in a way that I regret. I think it’s directed into a place where it seems a little more Vegas. I’ve actually worked on Broadway three times and it’s loads of fun but I think it’s gotten a little too expensive in general. I think it would be great to invite more New Yorkers back into theater. I know so many people who live here who can’t go.
What has it been like working with this cast and creative team?
One of the things that happened early on is that it became clear that we all were just so happy to be doing this because it was our dream. None of us went into theater dreaming to do three days on “Law and Order” or re-write a thriller for Paramount or audition for commercials. We were all there doing what we dreamed of doing — telling a story in the theater in a powerful and passionate and hopefully connected way.
If you go: “Poor Behavior” plays at The Duke on 42nd Street through Sept. 7, 229 W. 42nd St., primarystages.org