Jeremy Dobrish Pop-Culture Puck: Maturity Pursues a Scrappy Director-Producer. (Profiles)
Renner, Pamela, American Theatre
The door-prize this season is a pair of pointy Fun-Gum fangs--the better to suck your blood, my dear!--which serve as ticket stubs to aid your entry into the Transylvanian portals of Todd Miller's Ghoul, Adobe Theater Company's newest offering. But lest you begin to sink into a pleasant funk of Rocky Horror Show--fueled nostalgia for the glory days of the 8th Street Playhouse in New York City, here is Adobe's director-producer Jeremy Dobrish at the door. He greets audience members like old friends (some, in fact, are, at this stage in the company's history) and offers an account of his 16-month-old daughter Clea's latest exploits.
He looks and sounds remarkably like the proud new father that he is. Tim Curry, eat your heart out. This downtown deity knows how to change a diaper, and he's not hiding his light beneath a bushel-basket. "I love being a father, and it has certainly affected my work on a practical level," Dobrish says. "I cut meetings a lot shorter. I've started to think more about the future. I'd like to write plays that my daughter will read and be proud of. That raises the bar for me.
"In addition to fatherhood, I definitely think marriage affected my writing," he goes on. "I understood what faith and love mean differently as part of a twosome, after I had been married. That created a different arc in my writing."
For someone whose company has produced such Dumpster-chic comedies as Poona the Fuckdog and Other Plays for Children (Not a Play for Children) and the irreverent romantic satire Duet, a Romantic Fable, Dobrish, at 35, sounds positively sanguine about the prospect of maturity. "You get to a point where you say: 'Should our mission statement still be to appeal to audiences in their twenties? Or is there another theatre company behind us who can do that better?"'
Puckish and goateed, Dobrish hardly strikes one as an avatar of midlife sobriety. But he's apparently serious about being serious. Even at rest, Dobrish is springy and light-footed, with a former-magician's quickness in his movements. Though he retired from doing magic tricks decades ago, the founder of Adobe keeps his electronic pager (a Handspring Trio T-mobile unit) close at hand, letting it bleep and buzz mysteriously with constant reminders of his frenetic rehearsal schedule. He's hopelessly devoted to the magical, illogical logic of the theatre and seems to thrive on having a half-dozen directing and writing gigs hatching at any one time.
"When you writ; it's so open and free and vast," he says. "You can write anything--whatever you want. And that freedom is terrific until you start thinking, 'God, I'd like a job. I'd like to be in the theatre working on a play that's happening, instead of this amorphous thing that I'm writing."' His latest play, a reverse-chronological study of a concentric circle of urban marrieds called Eight Days (Backwards), is being mounted Off Broadway in June by the Vineyard Theatre under the direction of Mark Brokaw. While the cast and management of Adobe still hosts a pay-what-you-will open bar for their audiences after each performance, these days the party tends to die down rather suddenly at around 10 p.m.--a sign, Dobrish suspects, that even the Gen-X theatre crowd knows when it's time to head home, pay the sitter and turn on the Daffy Duck nightlight.
"The people who grew up on MTV as I remember it, when they played music videos--they don't watch MTV anymore," Dobrish observes.
The culture of ephemera--lampooned so affectionately by Dobrish in one of his most appealing plays, Orpheus and Eurydice, about the unlikely marriage of a rock star and a reticent wood nymph--has continued to evolve, faster than a speeding bullet. Pop culture does that habitually, and Dobrish has proven his zest for capturing that slipperiness on stage.
IN PLAYS LIKE ORPHEUS AND The Handless Maiden, Dobrish has proven adept at knitting together a comic tissue of contemporary realities, in which the tiny bright threads of myth and fairy tale adhere and are interwoven with recognizable parallels within modern-day relationships. …