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Why Sam Gold “Lives Here”

A hot young director focuses on new work

“It’s just some dream projects of mine that happened to find their way into the calendar in a strange way.”

Sam Gold is describing his work schedule over the next eight months, and “some” is a bit of an understatement.

He just helmed We Live Here, a new comedic drama by the actress Zoe Kazan (A Behanding in Spokane, Angels in America) that is currently running at Manhattan Theatre Club. At the end of the month, previews begin for Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar, which marks his Broadway debut.

This will be followed by a dizzying four additional projects between now and next June: new plays by Will Eno (Realistic Joneses) and Dan LeFranc (Big Meal), a Roundabout revival of the archetypal rusty-kitchen-sink drama Look Back in Anger, and finally, a new adaptation of Uncle Vanya at Soho Rep.

First, though, comes We Live Here, which could be described as a more psychosexually complex Rachel at the Wedding. When a troubled teenager brings her much older boyfriend home for her sister’s wedding, a series of banked resentments and allegiances burst into the forefront. (As we soon learn, it’s not the boyfriend’s first time in the house.)

“Zoe and I have worked on this for about a year and a half,” says Gold, who has known the actress socially for some time. The pair has devoted considerable energy to clarifying the play’s many, often strained family relationships. “She’s a really good, strong rewriter,” Gold says of Kazan. “And she understands the characters so well.”

Fittingly for a director who has brought to life miniaturist gems like Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation as well as the pirate puppet musical Jollyship the Whiz-Bang, Gold says a lot of the work on We Live Here has been devoted to finding the right balance between familial angst and comedy. Not long before discussing a tragic death in the family, for instance, the conflicted bride-to-be finds herself holding a used car tire indoors while wearing her wedding dress.

“The circumstances are really high-stakes,” says the director. “But the way you behave around your family can be entertaining even while these serious issues are still there. It’s all coming from a real place.”

While many directors make their name by putting their indelible stamp on a classic play, Gold has worked almost exclusively with new texts. “I love being part of a new play, helping shape it before it’s ready for the audience,” he says. “I feel like it’s my best chance to develop an organic experience.”

Organic doesn’t happen overnight, and developing new plays can be time-consuming. However, Gold insists that his schedule isn’t compressed to the point where the process is compromised. “I never feel like, ‘Oh, no, I don’t have the time now to pay attention to this or that.’”

Eric Grode is the author of “Hair: The Story of the Show That Defined a Generation” (Running Press).

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