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The cast of ‘The Women of Padilla’ share a cathartic moment in the Tony Meneses play that concludes its world premiere engagement this week at Two River Theater. (photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Beginning with a 1 p.m. performance Wednesday, seven opportunities remain for the general public to catch The Women of Padilla, the latest in an ever-growing portfolio of plays that have made their world premiere on the Red Bank stage of Two River Theater.

Written by Tony Meneses (whose previously produced project here was Guadalupe in the Guest Room), the drama is an ensemble piece that reflects an ongoing commitment by the theater company to develop and promote new works by Latino creators. It’s also a succinct and slightly surreal piece with an underlying universal quality — a glimpse at the home front in a time of seemingly eternal war, as well as the ways in which we find family, build community, and latch onto gossamer wings of hope whenever something important goes missing from our lives.

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Previews for ‘The Women of Padilla’ start this weekend at the Two River Theater. Below, playwright Tony Meneses.(Click to enlarge.)

In a 2015 redbankgreen interview, Tony Meneses confessed he “had a sense from the start that I was never gonna make money as a playwright, that it had to mean something more to me than that.”

The Guadalajara-born, Brooklyn-based dramatist was speaking about Guadalupe in the Guest Room, a comedy-drama with a personal slant that made its fully staged world premiere at Red Bank’s Two River Theater.

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johndiasTwo River Theater Company artistic director John Dias, above, directs a musical that he co-wrote, and Madeleine George, below, the theater’s first Playwright in Residence, will see her comedy — which is set in Red Bank mounted next season.

madeleine georgeThere are encore appearances by favorite actors. Re-visits to the words and works of Shakespeare and August Wilson. No less than three shows making their world premieres — including one set within “a larger-than-life version of Red Bank.”

When Two River Theater Company unveiled its 2016-2017 schedule of productions Monday night, it did so in a fashion that’s become a real rite of spring on Bridge Avenue: with the company’s celebrated artistic director John Dias joined on stage by creative people representing the comedies, dramas, musicals and multi-media experiences that will illuminate Two River’s stages beginning in September.

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RubenTonyMadeleineTwo River Theater welcomes five playwrights to the stage — including, from left, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tony Meneses and Madeleine George — to discuss what it takes to bring a script from paper to production, in a free event Wednesday.   

They’re the people from whom it all springs — the bravura performances, the award-winning costumes and sets, the audience-dazzling technical effects — although a good half the time you won’t even find them lurking around the catering tables on opening night.

But if playwrights privately grouse that they often get even less respect than a Rodney Dangerfield rap record, there exists in Red Bank at least one local cubby of culture where the Word is given its due. And on Wednesday, a diverse and distinguished group of dramatists will gather to discuss the never-easy process through which the scripted idea becomes a fully realized moment.

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Guadalupe 1Charles Socarides and Socorro Santiago are transfixed by the world of their favorite telenovela in GUADALUPE IN THE GUEST ROOM. (Photo by T.C. Erickson)


“We’re just a couple of quiet neighbors,” says Guadalupe (Socorro Santiago), a middle-aged Mexican woman who has recently lost her adult daughter Claudia. “We don’t have much to say to each other, even if we could.”

The “neighbor” she refers to is her American son in law, newly widowed Steve (Charles Socarides). But while these two characters find themselves thrust together by tragic circumstances (and kept apart by an awkward language barrier), it’s a shared guilty pleasure that draws them closer in Guadalupe in the Guest Room, the play by Tony Meneses now entering the final weekend of its world premiere engagement at Red Bank’s Two River Theater.

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Tony MenesesPlaywright Tony Meneses is the author of GUADALUPE IN THE GUEST ROOM, the comedy-drama that makes its world premiere on the stage of Two River Theater, beginning in previews this weekend.

A love story of an altogether different sort makes its bow on Valentine’s Day in Red Bank, courtesy of Two River Theater Company.

Written by Guadalajara-born/ Brooklyn-based playwright Tony Meneses, Guadalupe in the Guest Room is a tale of “two people with nothing in common but a shared grief” that’s described as “a deeply moving and very funny celebration of life, new beginnings, and the healing power of telenovelas.” Directed by Daniella Topol (last season’s Wind in the Willows Christmas), it’s a study in what happens when middle-aged Mexican woman Guadalupe (Broadway, stage and TV veteran Socorro Santiago) comes to stay with Steve (Charles Socarides), the American husband of her recently and suddenly deceased daughter — a scenario filtered through the emotional hyperreality of Spanish language TV soap operas.

the Drama Desk at redbankgreen caught up with Tony Meneses as Tech Week loomed and the first curtain neared.

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RubenDavidLeeJessStoneTony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, FRASIER creator David Lee, and Jessica Stone are among the star-quality directors working with Two River Theater Company in the just-announced 2014-2015 season.

“Didn’t we just do this?” joked Two River Theater Company founder Robert Rechnitz, as he stepped up to the podium in the sleek auditorium named for his wife Joan and himself. The TRTC founder joined artistic director John Dias, managing director Michael Hurst and special guests on Monday evening, for an event that’s become a much-anticipated ritual in Red Bank — the unveiling of the upcoming season at Two River’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center.

Spanning centuries-old classics and modern milestones from both sides of the Atlantic — and fulfilling its stated mission of “leading, not following public taste,” with an unprecedented three world premieres — the 2014-2015 slate of mainstage productions stands as one of the company’s most ambitious yet; a schedule that had Rechnitz praising the acclaimed regional theater as “a school, slyly disguised as a place of entertainment…we want to fill the place, but on our terms, and yours.”

Take it just around the corner, for the details on the season that kicks off on September 13.

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