John Patrick Shanley Reflects on His Accidental Retrospective

In a life of feeling things incredibly deeply, John Patrick Shanley has experienced some thrilling highs: the rapturous audience response in 1984 to “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,” his first success as a playwright; accepting an Academy Award in 1988 for best screenplay for “Moonstruck.”

Add to that list the thrill of discovering the luxury of drop-off laundry. “I was like 35 years old, and I was in Poughkeepsie,” Shanley said in a phone interview during a rehearsal break last month. “I went in to do my laundry, and after a couple of questions, I realized that they would do it for me, fold it and give it back to me. And I was like, ‘This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened in my life.’”

Shanley’s latest play, “Brooklyn Laundry,” is about sacrifice and everyday heroism that begins with a character placing her “bag of rags” on the scale at a laundromat. Opening on Wednesday at New York City Center, it is the 13th play the playwright has premiered with the Manhattan Theater Club. “There’s an incredible flair, intelligence, grace and humor to his work,” said Lynne Meadow, the theater company’s artistic director. Most of all, she added, “he writes with such humanity, and so personally.”

“Brooklyn Laundry,” whose cast includes Cecily Strong and David Zayas, is also part of an unofficial triptych of Shanley plays this season. In January, an Off Broadway revival of “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,” starring Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott, concluded a successful run at the Lucille Lortel Theater. On March 7, the first Broadway revival of his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2004 play, “Doubt,” about a priest who may or may not have molested a child, opens in a Roundabout Theater Company production led by Liev Schreiber and Amy Ryan.

David Zayas and Cecily Strong in “Brooklyn Laundry,” Shanley’s latest play. It opens Wednesday in a Manhattan Theater Club production.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

In a conversation that touched on all three plays, Shanley revealed that the accidental retrospective isn’t the only reason his life has been flashing before his eyes recently. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Related Articles

Back to top button