Georgia Clark

Star Trek Meets Chekhov?

"The Starship Astrov"
The Beckett Theatre, Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street, New York
July 17 – 31 (Five performances only; see website for details)
Tickets: $18.00. Info

The year is 3047. A diplomatic mission brings a professor, his lovely alien wife and his faithful doctor aboard "The Starship Astrov"…

"The Starship Astrov" at The Beckett Theatre

Asking the question, will humanity stay the same, or will the future change us, award-winning playwright Duncan Pflaster ("Prince Trevor Amongst The Elephants") returns to the Midtown International Theatre Festival with another classic-bender fantasy: a mashup of Chekhovian comedy and science fiction! We spoke to the playwright about this mixed genre madness he's bringing to the famed MITF.

Q. Tell me how you came to write this play?
A I've always wondered what the things that happen off-screen on "Star Trek" are like. What's ordinary life like in that sort of future utopia, on spaceships that don't have weekly adventures? I wanted to write a play about it. I'm also a great admirer of Chekhov's work, and wanted to write a play in his style. I was getting nowhere with either of them until a light bulb went off and the two ideas coalesced into one, and I suddenly wrote the first draft in a white heat.

Q. Can you describe what the play is about in your own words?
A. Like most of Chekhov, it's about emotional paralysis, about not stepping up to the plate in your own life and hopefully learning from that.

Q. How does it break new ground artistically?
A. I don't think it breaks new ground so much as it breaks old ground in a new way. Chekhov always said most of his plays are comedies, though we generally think of them as rather dour; I think such a radical change of setting, stripping away the complicated Russian names, and presenting the same tropes makes it more funny to a modern audience.

Playwright Duncan Pflaster mixes Russian masters and intergalactic giggles at the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Photo by Care of Kampfire PR.

Q. What sort of other pop culture works is it in the vein of?
A I was heavily influenced by Star Trek the Next Generation, as that's the Trek I grew up on (though my play is not actually set in the Trek universe.) As far as Chekhov, it's most in the vein of Uncle Vanya.

Q. You're kicking some pretty sweet goals in NYC – what has been your career highlight this far?
A. Still my favorite has been doing my play Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants in the 2008 Midtown International Theatre Festival. We had a cast of 12 without any divas, we were blessed with a smooth rehearsal period, and the show was a big hit, getting great reviews, and eventually winning Outstanding Play, Outstanding Production, and Outstanding Lead Actor (for Carlos Rafael Fernandez, who played Trevor), in the MITF awards that year. It was such a joy to do, overall.

Q. What or who is inspiring you right now?
A. I'm back on an Eric Overmyer kick: he's always been one of my favorite playwrights since I saw a production of "On the Verge" years ago, but lately there's been something of a renaissance of his work in NYC; a lot of companies have been producing his plays and his translations/adaptations of classics over the last couple of years, so he's been much on my mind. The new play I'm currently writing was inspired by the epic style of his "Dark Rapture."


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