If you frequently attend theater works, then likely you know how hard it is for a playwright to get a play staged. So the fact that Manhattan Repertory Theatre gave “Thursday, Five Years from Now” its second staging in less than a year is pretty impressive. Add to that the playwright’s age, and 23-year-old actor Matt Kleckner seems pretty amazing. The play concerns a cancer scare after a routine colonoscopy and its effects on relationships. A new character, Lily, complicates things between Brett and his girlfriend, Stacey.
In an exclusive interview, Matt Kleckner, without hesitation, told byteclay.com his wildest dreams for the Wednesday night opening, March 9: “Oh, that’s easy; that Aaron Sorkin’s in the audience and wants to talk small screen adaptation into a mini series.”
Early Thursday morning, the talented playwright and actor nearly effervesced: “We had a very successful opening night and are very excited for the rest of our run. Sorkin didn’t show, but we had very strong audience support, which contributed to a fantastic opening night.”
Director Pete Danelski leads the cast of five in the revised one-act play, which has a guaranteed run of performances through Saturday, March 12. If it succeeds in the current competition against other one-act plays, “Thursday, Five Years from Now” will show for another four performances in three weeks, March 30 and 31.
Matt Kleckner himself stars in the lead role opposite Christine Baglivio as his girlfriend, Stacey. Lily, played by Kiersten Spence, has a romantic past with Brett, of which Stacey, her former college friend, is unaware. Stewart Schneck and Deb Maclean play supporting roles as The Doctor and Nurse Stritch.
As the play opens, we find Brett in his skivvies. Fortunately for Stacey, he’s not in their living room. Unfortunately for him, he’s awaiting the news of his latest medical tests. Surprised, Nurse Stritch asks how this state of undress came about. Brett cheekily replies: “You said make myself comfortable. I’ve been waiting here for half an hour; the pants are lucky they lasted that long. Besides the Doctor’s gonna do the whole G.I. Joe-check-your-privates-turn-and-cough routine anyway. Figured I’d save him the private strip tease.”
Asked how it feels to be scantily clad before an audience, Matt Kleckner unabashedly says it was not just some gratuitous gimmick; it actually served a literary need and certain artistic purposes: The script “needed a ‘hook’ opening scene to immediately engage both reader and audience.” Other options he tried initially just didn’t work as well and seemed somehow juvenile.
One wonders if James Cameron similarly struggled over artistic purposes when deciding how to attire Kate Winslet in a certain scene in “Titanic.” According to “RollingStone”: “For Cameron, ‘Titanic’ is an attempt to raise pop entertainment to the level of art.”
Earlier hopes to mount “Thursday, Five Years from Now” this year in Philadelphia have died, primarily due to a funding shortfall and time constraints. How’s a budding actor, starting to make a living in his craft, supposed to act and simultaneously moonlight as a playwright bringing a play to the stage? Notably, the Indiegogo kickstart funding for this production, despite everyone’s generosity, required actors and crew to take a pay cut. Similarly, hopes of presenting it as part of the New York Fringe Festival have come to naught, ironically due to its relative success in being professionally mounted so recently.
Still, that neither dampens nor deters Matt Kleckner. While acting, he is already finishing his second play; its working title: “Holier than Thou.” Plus he has several other plays in some stage of the creative process. Something suggests he will soon investigate cloning as a solution. Or maybe Aaron Sorkin will come along with a screenplay plan that temporarily interrupts the play-writing process …
“Thursday, Five Years from Now” (until March 12)
Director: Pete Danelski
Starring: Matt Kleckner, Christine Baglivio and Kiersten Spence
Manhattan Repertory Theatre
303 W. 42nd St., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10036
Correction: An earlier edition of this article misidentified the actress in the role of Stacey as Christine Noel. She is Christine Baglivio.