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Stages

In this version of Hoverman’s comedy, humans collide, not cars

Kat Fairaway (in back), Mather Zickel (with gun), Russell Soder, and Angela Goethals in a rehearsal for “Who You See Here.”
Kat Fairaway (in back), Mather Zickel (with gun), Russell Soder, and Angela Goethals in a rehearsal for “Who You See Here.”MJ Bruder Munafo

At one point, a draft of Matt Hoverman’s farce “Who You See Here” included a car crashing through a wall.

“I’m a great believer that limitations of space and budget add rather than subtract to a production, but that one had me stumped,” says Jeanie Hackett, who is directing the world premiere of the comedy at Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse Aug. 4-Sept. 2.

“After two workshop productions several years ago [directed by Christopher Ashley, who recently won a Tony for ‘Come From Away’], the play was snapped up by a big Broadway producer,” says Hoverman, whose day job is working as a writer for Disney Junior’s television programs, including “Sofia the First” and the new “Fancy Nancy.” He’s also won an Emmy for his work on PBS’s “Arthur.” “Since expectations for production values on a Broadway show are higher, I was advised to make the ending bigger,” he says.

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But after conversations with Hackett and Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse artistic director MJ Bruner Munafo, Hoverman returned to an earlier, more low-key climax.

“The payoff is so rewarding and so funny, it doesn’t need special effects,” says Hackett. “Matt has a real gift for dialogue, but most importantly for a farce, his play has a really strong structure.”

“Who You See Here” traces a couple who leave the fast-paced city life for the simpler rhythms of a rural town. But when a troubled movie star lands in town and starts attending AA meetings with the husband, issues of anonymity and ethics compete with the allure of fame.

“The play is really about the temptation we have to vacate our ethics when we respond to celebrity,” says Hoverman.

Hoverman, who says he loves a challenge, has layered his plot with complications, including a local who may be a stalker and an act of plagiarism in a bid for attention, to ratchet up the comedy to farcical proportions.

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“Farce requires an incredible amount of precision,” says Hackett. “Other plays may have room for the actors to be messy, but this almost has to be choreographed.”

For her cast, Hackett turned to actors she knows well. Angela Goethals, who has been acting on Broadway and in film since she was a child, also happens to be Hackett’s goddaughter. Goethals’s husband, film actor Russell Soder, is also in the ensemble.

“My job as a director is to see lots of people for roles,” says Hackett, “but I had just worked with Angela on ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ in Los Angeles (which starred Jane Kaczmarek and Alfred Molina) and knew she would be perfect.”

And as for the Broadway prospects, Hoverman is realistic.

“I’m so happy to see the show get up on its feet with a full production,” he says. “We’ll see what happens next.”

A peek at some promising plays

If you’re down on the Vineyard on a Monday night, the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse is offering a fascinating mix of new play readings. Up next is Larry Mollin’s “Please Come to Boston” (Aug. 7), based on the 1974 Dave Loggins song; followed by “The Garbologists” (Aug. 14), by Lindsay Joelle; “She Exits, Laughing” (Aug. 21), by “Saving Kitty” playwright Marisa Smith; “Dystopian Daze” (Sept. 11), by playwright and actress Brooke Adams; and “Unseen” (Sept. 18), by Mona Mansour.

Bridge Rep turns 5

Bridge Repertory Theater kicks off its new role as the first theater-in-residence at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge with a launch party and celebration of the company’s fifth anniversary Aug. 2 at the center. The event is free, and includes catered bites, a cash bar, and opportunities to support Bridge Rep’s work. There will also be a sneak peek of scenes from the world premiere of “Dark Room,” written by George Brant (“Grounded”) and inspired by the photographs of Francesca Woodman. The play will be directed by Olivia D’Ambrosio, with movement by Doppelganger Dance Collective and dramaturgy by Alexander Platt. Bridge Rep’s upcoming fifth season will also include a reconceived Halloween version of last season’s “Marvelous Party,” as well as a sexy Shakespeare event for Valentine’s Day. To register for the celebration, go to www.bridgerep.org.

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WHO YOU SEE HERE

At Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven, Aug. 2-Sept. 2. Tickets $30-$50, 508-696-6300, www.mvplayhouse.org


Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.