Some plays you just connect to more viscerally than others. For me, FOUND A PEANUT by Donald Margulies mainlined me back to the angst and bravado of my younger self in both a scary and cathartic way. Donald was just 31 years old in 1986 when the Back Alley Theatre produced the west coast premiere of FOUND A PEANUT, the second play he’d written. Originally produced at the NY Shakespeare Festival Off-Broadway in 1984, where the play found what Donald described as a “cult audience,” it explored hierarchy and politics through the eyes of children, all played by adult actors. FOUND A PEANUT re-enforced a truth for me: as much as we try to smooth things over as adults, there’s nothing as high as the highs, and nothing as low as the lows that we experience when we’re young.
The Daily News said, “It’s unlikely there has ever been a play that looks at the world of children from a hard-edged, non-sentimental point of view, or one that dramatizes the trauma and pain of childhood with such immediacy and impact. And it’s equally unlikely that this fascinating material could be presented more compellingly than it is in Michael Arabian’s sensitive, energetic production.” The phenomenal cast embodied their parts as children with a ferocious realistic intensity. The ensemble was David O. Cameron, William DeAcutis, Winnifred Freedman, Ben Mittleman, Lycia Neff and Jeffrey Rogers, with Leslie Jordan playing the five-year-old in what was, I believe, his first role in LA.
Many others must have felt the way I did about FOUND A PEANUT as the production was extended. Donald had joined us from New York during rehearsals and it was the beginning of a decades-long relationship.