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Jackson Heights director takes helm of Manhattan dramedy

TimesLedger Newspapers

Jackson Heights resident Gwenyth Reitz did not write the off-off-Broadway play she is directing, but the play itself nevertheless has parallels to Reitz’s life.

“I hope to take a piece that I’ve really respected and admired for a long time and create a real moving experience for the people who come to see it,” Reitz said.

“The Family Room,” which opens Sept. 30 at the Arclight Theater on the Upper West Side, is a drama/comedy written by “Heroes” writer and producer Aron Eli Coleite. The play follows the tribulations of delinquent teenager David, whose parents are therapists and in therapy themselves. Reitz said the play not only follows David’s therapy sessions, but also the therapy sessions of his parents, whose marriage is troubled, and a girl named Jennifer, who is seeking treatment with David’s father and is the object of David’s affections.

“The play just literally swings through therapy session to therapy session to therapy session,” Reitz said.

Directing the play has been a labor of love for Reitz, who was born in Sri Lanka but grew up in California’s Bay Area, where the play is set. A longtime lover of theater, Reitz had worked with Coleite in “Shakespeare’s Crossing,” a play Coleite had written combining William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth.”

“It was a great piece and my husband was in it, so we met because of Aron,” said Reitz, who played Lady Macbeth to her husband’s Romeo.

Reitz said she had maintained a friendship with Coleite ever since. In 2004, Reitz visited California to see the opening of the play’s original Los Angeles run. She said it has been nice to work on a play she has loved since then.

“It’s just a great character piece,” she said.

Having been in therapy herself, Reitz said the play explores some of the artificiality of therapy sessions but does not demonize therapists.

“We can sort of laugh at its foibles, but there’s a lot of good that comes out of the sessions that people go into,” Reitz said.

While she has directed plays of a similar size to this, she says this is her first time working on the Upper West Side.

“I think that it’s an incredibly compelling story and I’m really thrilled,” Reitz said.

Reitz has lived in New York for 10 years, saying she wanted to live here for the theater community, and Jackson Heights since 2006.

“I’m a huge champion of this neighborhood,” Reitz said.

Arclight Theater is at 152 W. 71st St. in Manhattan. To buy tickets, call 212-787-8716 or visit thefamilyroomnyc.com/tickets.html. The last show is Oct. 23.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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