Adaptive Radiation gets world premiere at Denizen Theatre

The cast of “Adaptive Radiation”: Genevieve Simon (Mel), Fredi Bernstein (Olivia) Sam Massaro (Robert), Tepper Saffren (Steve), and Em Demaio (female Steve).

For its second-ever production, New Paltz’s Denizen Theatre, the new black-box performance space, is hosting a world premiere. “It’s a wonderfully timely piece that we selected specially for the audience in the Hudson Valley,” Denizen’s artistic director Harry Lipstein said of Adaptive Radiation: A Play with Magic, written by Hannah Benitez. The Miami-born playwright, a self-described “Cuban-Jewish American millennial,” wrote the comedy to address the question, “Have our millennials been misguided?” according to Lipstein. Its millennial characters find themselves out of school, working at uninspiring jobs, and wondering whether they have been “sold a bill of goods.”

That’s where the magical realism comes in. The characters begin looking to nature to find more meaning in their lives. “Truth resides in the simple, raw magic of our world, and the progression of human evolution depends on our understanding of and submitting to this truth,” says Sarah Lynn Brown, who is directing the production, set to premiere on December 6. “This play is magic. Theatrical magic, emotional magic, authentic, tangible magic.”

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Director Sarah Lynn Brown

Lipstein describes Brown’s process of warming up the cast and crew on the first day of work on the new production. Each was asked “to share a bit of magic,” as manifested in their own personal lives. Christine LaBoy, a SUNY New Paltz Department of Theatre Arts graduate who is working as stage manager for this production (and may become a permanent fixture at Denizen, per Lipstein), told of how she happy she was to wind up back in her hometown with prospects of making a career here after spending a lot of time working on the road. “She said that her best friend is her five-year-old nephew, and now she gets to be with her nephew,” Lipstein said.

Establishing a home base where local stage professionals can find actual paying work rather than merely volunteering at a community theater to flex their artistic muscles is a large part of the ambitious vision behind Denizen. Building a regular audience for the new theater is its creative team’s challenge, now that the long-awaited building is finally open to the public. “These are the things that absolutely energize me,” Lipstein said. “We’re doing our best to make this work really sing.”

Denizen’s synopsis describes Adaptive Radiation as “an energetic, mystical, alternative comedy that asks us to look into our assumptions about adulthood, career and education, as we reflect on the need to take action, before falling prey to the existential darkness inhabiting our contemporary world.” It’s an unabashed pitch to lure in younger stagegoers, along with the greying audience typically seen filling seats at community-based theatrical venues in the region. Denizen offers special discount ticket prices of $15 for attendees under age 30 and $5 for students with ID; general admission costs $24, $20 for seniors. Reservations may be made online (with millennial-friendly non-paper tickets appearing on your smartphone screen) at www.denizentheatre.com/tickets or by phone at 303-4136.

Adaptive Radiation opens on Thursday, December 6 and runs through December 30, with performances beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, plus 2 p.m. matinées on all Sundays and on Saturday, December 8. Attendees at all Wednesday performances can stick around afterwards for a post-show talkback with the cast (Genevieve Simon, Fredi Bernstein, Sam Massaro, Tepper Saffren and Em Demaio). A “Post-Show Informed Panel Discussion” is promised after the performance on Thursday, December 20.

Denizen Theatre is wheelchair-accessible and located in the upper parking lot of the Water Street Market at 10 Main Street in New Paltz.

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