NPW ‘Afterlove’ explores real, supernatural love

Keren Lugo and Audrey Corsa pose for a portrait June 29 in Brawdy Theater Studios. (Ruby Wallau | Staff Photographers)

Keren Lugo and Audrey Corsa pose for a portrait June 29 in Brawdy Theater Studios. (Ruby Wallau | Staff Photographer)

When Chautauqua Theater Company conservatory actors Audrey Corsa and Keren Lugo were cast in the season’s second New Play Workshop, Afterlove, opening at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Bratton Theater, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

Since its inception, Afterlove has gone through several changes. As of now, playwright David West Read’s basic plotline remains what it was: a doctor struggling with the loss of his patients, finding soulmate-like-love in a female ghost. With multiple drafts and rewrites, even the cast and director are not completely sure of what the play is going to look like on stage.

The CTC team is extremely excited about entering the unknown.

“NPW is all about facilitating the playwright’s needs and wants,” said Andrew Borba, CTC associate artistic director, who is directing the play. “Afterlove is an NPW play in its truest form.” 

NPW plays are not full productions. While there are sets, costumes, lights and sound — lighting and sound fellows Megan Turnquist and Brandon Reed will design the entire production themselves as part CTC’s design fellowship — the onstage actors have the liberty to hold the script in their hands during the duration of performance.

Throughout the production process, playwright Read will continue to workshop and revise the play.

“The playwright has come up with a scenario where the dead appear to the living only once,” Corsa said. “When Lulu gets involved with this young man, she realizes she may not be able to see him again, and craziness ensues.” 

Corsa was last seen in CTC’s first NPW of the season, The Engine of Our Ruin. She also played Emily Gibbs in Our Town.

Most recently, Lugo performed in CTC’s “After Hours” production Church. She was featured in Ellis Island before that.

“I think the NPW is a good tool for the playwright, where he can see the progress of the play and where it can potentially be,” Lugo said. “I am excited to be a part of that and help David figure that out.”

Corsa and Lugo are both ghosts in the play, but with another draft in process, there could be a change.

As of now, the play has two ghosts (women) and two living characters (men).

Evan Cabnet will be directing CTC’s final stage production, Henry V, this summer. Corsa and Lugo were “warned” about Read’s rewriting behavior from Cabnet, who has worked with the playwright before.

“This is the first David Read play that Evan has not directed,” Corsa said. “Evan told us that David will be making changes throughout the rehearsal process.”

CTC’s theme this year is “Imagination,” and even the NPW’s managed to fit into this category.

Afterlove connects with our theme of imagination so well and, for me, it connects with the final act of Our Town because it has the ghosts who have moved on to another world,” Borba said. “It brings two worlds together.”