Questioning 9/11's Aftermath, American Sublime Gets World Premiere in Philly

By Kenneth Jones
20 Jan 2006

Patricia Lynch's American Sublime, about a married couple's response to the Sept. 11 loss of their son — and the loss of something somehow greater — gets its world premiere by InterAct Theatre Company Jan. 20-Feb. 19.

Producing artistic director Seth Rozin stages the Philadelphia production, which opens Jan. 25, after previews. The play is billed as "a subtle, human drama that questions whether or not patriotism can go too far."

The play is set in the wing of an American art museum. "Once the picture perfect family, Todd and Constance have been searching for solace ever since they lost their son in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," according to InterAct production notes. "After years of being stuck in a tragic inertia, they feel, at last, it's time to take action. They need to find a way to reconcile their frustration and pain. Some how peel away years of oppressive fear and hidden personal guilt. Some way of abating the daily deluge of political rhetoric and patriotic pep-talks. They need to find a solution… and they need a 'messenger' to deliver their response to the world."

The couple "find themselves in the American Wing of a cosmopolitan art museum. Sitting in front of their favorite Albert Bierstadt landscape of the Rocky Mountains, the view is majestic — a panoramic vision of America itself: dignified, sprawling and free. With the sorrow of their son's death ever present, it's now just a glimpse of an America that no longer exists. But once they become acquainted with one of the museum's rookie security guards, they're convinced they've found the perfect person. He’s a one-time aspiring comic book writer who hasn't aspired to too much of anything lately. He is someone passionate about living, but disillusioned with life. He's just the type Todd and Constance are looking for to aid in their quest for an ultimate act of 'patriotism' — an act that will bring purpose to his life, while resolving the helplessness in their own. Now, all that's left for them to do is convince him to join them..."

The cast features Steve Hatzai (as Todd) and Hayden Saunier (as Constance), along with Jefferson Haynes (as The Museum Guard).

The design team includes Marka Suber (sets), Shannon Zura (lighting and sound) and Susan Smythe (costumes).

In an interview with InterAct dramaturg Larry Loebell, playwright Patricia Lynch explained, "It was very important to me in this play that the characters be everyday sort of people. ...not a play about intellectuals. This is a play about the vast middle of us, ...who believed ...that we would find WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam was responsible for the World Trade Towers. ...American Sublime is not a 9/11 play. It is a play about who we have become after 9/11. When I first began working on the play I was gripped by a sense of loss, and angry on almost an intuitive level at what I dimly perceived to be an emerging effort to wrap the flag in fear around a series of national and international manipulations. ...But as I continued to work on the play ...[it] grew far less mysterious to me and to audiences, because reality was rapidly mirroring the play, to the point that it now seemed not a metaphor any longer but something that could happen, and was happening our culture right now; that in a rush for revenge, for safety, we traded the truth, and became the very thing we feared."

Playwright Patricia Lynch is the author of Cottage, House of Balls and Mrs. Mackenzie's Beginners' Guide to the Blues (co-written with Kent Stephens). Her plays have been produced by Stage Left Theatre, First Stage Theater, Illusion Theater, the Tony-Award winning Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis, Great American History Theater, 7 Stages, Horizon Theater, Georgia Repertory, Brass Tacks Theatre, Stepping Stone, and Stages Theater.

All performances take place at InterAct's home at 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia.

For more information, call (215) 568-8079 or visit


Now in its 18th Season, InterAct Theatre Company "is a theatre for today's world, producing new and contemporary plays that explore the social, political and cultural issues of our time," according the company.

In April 2006, InterAct will present the world premiere production of Reinventing Eden, written by InterAct producing artistic director Seth Rozin. The season concludes in May 2006 with the Philadelphia premiere of Since Africa by Mia McCullough.