Beginning July 18, New York Stage and Film (NYSAF) and Vassar College’s Powerhouse Theater will present Stephen Belber’s The Power of Duff, featuring Desmin Borges, Dominic Fumusa, Neil Huff, Russell G. Jones, Greg Kinnear, Ben Platt, Ilana Levine and Jennifer Westfeldt and directed by Peter DuBois. In The Power of Duff, Charles Duff, played by Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, As Good as It Gets), a TV news anchor at a local news station in Rochester, New York, undergoes an unexpected spiritual awakening in the midst of a broadcast.
“My inspiration for this play was a Time Magazine article (from several years ago) that was dedicated to religion, and a sentence in it that read, ‘Nineteen out of 20 Americans believe in God’ (or some form of God),” said playwright Stephen Belber. “And it struck me as potentially interesting to write a play about a person who was fundamentally ambivalent about religion, even about spirituality, who underwent a transformation of sorts that led to him finding himself in a position where he was suddenly a sort of spiritual ‘leader,’ even as that ambivalence continued. I liked the question of what one should or can do when put in that position.”
Duff’s newfound belief and resultant prayers forever alter the path of his life, and those of his audience and family. “In the course of the play, Charles goes from extreme reluctance at being in this position to appreciating its ability to help him reconnect with his son and ex-wife, to eventually enjoying the attention, fame and power, to having to reexamine who he is and what he wants in life and what it truly means to have faith,” said Belber.
The Power of Duff marks a return to the Mainstage for both Belber (Tape, Match, Dusk Rings a Bell, Fault Lines) and DuBois (Sons of the Prophet, Becky Shaw, Jack Goes Boating, All New People) as part of Powerhouse’s 28th season. Actress Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein, Friends with Kids) returns to Powerhouse as Sue, Duff’s tightly wound co-anchor. “For me, NYSAF offers a rare and pure creative experience,” said Westfeldt. “It is one of the few places where a writer can develop and hone their piece in a safe, daring and inspiring environment – and that leads to great breakthroughs creatively. I would return to the Powerhouse again and again – as long as they will have me! It is a remarkable place.”
Each summer Powerhouse Theater presents new plays and musicals in development, many of which go on to additional professional productions. This unique collaboration between New York Stage and Film and Vassar College consists of an eight-week residency on the Vassar campus, during which more than 250 professional artists and 40 apprentices live and work together to create new works.
The Power of Duff performance dates are July 18, 19, 20, 21, 24 (with post-show discussion), 25, 26, 27 and 28 at 8 p.m.; July 21, 22, 28 (with post-show discussion) and 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $35. Subscriptions and single tickets are now available online and at the campus box office. Go to https://powerhouse.vassar.edu or visit the Powerhouse Theater box office on the Vassar College campus at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, call (845) 437-5599 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.