The story of “The Bridge in Scarsdale” has not been published, and it’s only been seen by an audience a handful of times. It ran off-Broadway at the Phil Bosakowski Theatre at 354 West 45th St. for a short time in early 2002, a fact documented only by a New York Times review posted in February of the same year.
When its playwright, Robert Remington Wood, died in November 2018, he had written two plays that appeared off-Broadway, the other titled “A Month of Sundaes.” His family, including his three children Caitlin, Caroline and Robert, returned to the family’s local place of worship, The Church of St. James the Less, and worked with office manager Dakota Martin on preparing his memorial services. That’s when they learned Martin was also the coproducer of the new Scarsdale-based theater group Chill Bucket Productions and they agreed to be involved in the process of staging a reading of the play.
“The show is very Scarsdale. You see the son sort of feeling pressure to race to the top, working a lot, not getting to spend a lot of time with his family,” said Martin. “There are a lot of scenes and references that anyone from Westchester will definitely recognize.”
Instead of reading lines and stage directions out of a polished and bound book, Chill Bucket actors have been reading original words and notes out of a binder that belonged to Wood — crossed out words, scribbled notes and all. Wood’s children will be attending the reading and will take part in a Q&A and talk back with the audience after the show, and the Chill Bucket performers will be asking some questions of their own in an attempt to fully understand a text they’re producing with nothing to reference and no one to ask for clarification.
“They sent me a binder with things crossed out and things written on the side. So it’s different from working with what we’re usually working on, which is a bound book with everything perfect and revised,” said Martin. “With this I’m missing a page, I’m not sure what he means in certain places … there’s nothing to reference, there are no photos or videos. It’s cool in that there’s a lot for me to interpret and for us to interpret as a cast.”
Wood grew up in Edgemont and graduated from Edgemont High School before heading to Duke University where he majored in English literature. After graduating from college, he held editorial positions at McGraw Hill, and advertising and sales at Rolling Stone magazine, Cherry Lane Music Productions and Financial World magazine, which led to his next career in the world of finance and institutional sales. Though there is no definitive answer as to how much of the play was based on Wood’s own life, the themes of living in Westchester, feeling pressure to enter the financial sector and many references to classical literature are all strong throughout the piece.
“He quotes a lot of poetry and there’s a lot of references that you have to read probably five times and you’re still picking up on another new thing,” said Martin. “There are layers of things that people will understand … there’s a lot of references to famous poets and writers, so if there are any real English majors in the crowd, they’ll really enjoy it.”
“The Bridge in Scarsdale” takes place against the backdrop of a country club where protagonist Phil (Chris Manetakis) is meeting his father Henry (Cyrus Newitt) for lunch. As the characters watch their high-end meal orders head to the kitchen, the conversation quickly turns to one that reflects Henry’s interest in all things work- and money-related and Phil’s interest in connecting on a level beyond that. Henry, who spent his professional life building bridges while simultaneously failing to do the same in his personal life, is characterized as a workaholic and someone who was absent from his son’s life and prone to drinking, womanizing and falling into debt.
Though the conversation over lunch makes the longstanding nature of chaos and conflict in the family clear, Phil spends it convincing his father to visit his mother, from whom Henry is separated but never divorced. Regina (Anne Giroux) lives in a mental hospital where she often resists treatment for a variety of symptoms. Henry finally agrees to visit by the end of the first act.
The second act takes place in the psychiatric hospital, where the audience sees that Regina and Phil have a closer and warmer relationship than shared between Henry and Phil. Regina is seemingly the opposite of Henry, full of artistic energy and a love for poetry that Phil obviously shares. When Henry and Regina reunite, chaos unfolds as old love is brought to the surface, secrets are revealed, wounds reopened and the true complexity of one son’s relationship with his parents is brought to light.
“It’s ultimately about the complexity of family relationships,” said Martin. “You come to believe the father wasn’t so nice, he was cold and alcoholic, but also maybe that he thought he was doing something good protecting Phil from his mom. He did lose time with her, but then he also didn’t have to witness a lot of what was happening to her. As parents, there is no handbook and you’re left to wonder what truly was the best thing to do.”
Though the production is not fully staged, it will include sparse set pieces and limited costume and stage design to allow the actors to perform in the most organic way possible. Besides Giroux, Manetakis and Newitt, the cast includes three other minor characters played by Tommy Lloyd and Benna Strober. The impact of the show, according to Martin, is not only the complexity of the relationships carefully portrayed throughout, but the involved language in which it is written. Though it is a contemporary piece, Wood’s love for English literature came into play to create a script rife with literary references, flowery language and neoclassical theatrical prose. The script is so meaty, said Martin, that too many frills and additions are not necessary.
“In a lot of ways it’s up to us and the audience to figure it out,” said Martin. “They’re not the most bright and cheery topics, but I’m sure there’s a lot of people who can see certain aspects of their everyday life in these characters at the end of the day. It’s about that mother-, father-child relationship, which everyone can see themselves in, in some way.”