Cognitive Dissonance

“I’m gonna sound like my own infomercial here,” warns playwright Damian Lanigan in our recent phone conversation, “but it’s a good night. An entertaining two hours.”

Lanigan is referring to his play, Dissonance, which opens the mainstage season at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, June 1-27. This marks the New York debut of the comedy-drama, which premiered at Massachusetts’ Williamstown Theater Festival in 2007. “I don’t really like going to the theater because you pay 60 bucks to be bored out of your mind,” Lanigan confesses. “And since I’m from the TV generation and never went to the theater when I was a kid, the idea of being bored for five minutes is intolerable. So when I’m writing, I try to keep things moving, keep the tempo up, and not overstay my welcome.”

Broadway notable Lonny Price (Master Harold…and the Boys, A Class Act) is staging Dissonance, which tells of a longstanding string quartet rehearsing for their biggest-ever concert at Carnegie Hall. “I wasn’t conscious of it being a family drama when I was writing it,” Lanigan notes, “but I knew I wanted different generations and the tensions in that dynamic. My mum came to see it at Williamstown and said, `You basically put our family on the stage. The main guy’s dad, and you’re Hal, and [my sister] Stephanie is Beth.’ The analogy isn’t precise, but I can see what she’s driving at.”

The Conventry-born novelist and dramatist migrated to the States in 1999 when his wife took a job offer in New York. “I had my own business in the UK,” Lanigan recalls, “so I had to give that up, but I decided to start writing. I finished two books, Stretch, 29 and The Chancers, and since then it’s been a lot of radio work and TV pilots.” Married with two children, Lanigan, 43, is also no stranger to this area. “Technically, I already live on Long Island because I live in Brooklyn, but I go out to Bethpage to play golf or we go to Amagansett with the kids. Before I moved here, I didn’t realize Long Island was this vastly populated area of the world. I though it was some kind of floating idyll. But now I’m here and a bit more familiar with it.”

Bay Street’s Mainstage Season:

June 1-27
Dissonance by Damian Lanigan; directed by Tony nominee and Theater World Award winner Lonny Price.

July 6-Aug. 1
Lanford Wilson’s gentle drama, Fifth of July; directed by Oz and The Mentalist co-star, Terry Kinney.

Aug. 10-Sept. 5
David Mamet’s zany courtroom farce, Romance, staged by veteran off-Broadway and regional theater director, Lisa Peterson.