Jeff Hatcher revisits 'Three Viewings' at Illusion

Since it premiered in 1994, prolific playwright Jeff Hatcher's Three Viewings has played in theaters around the country. The show is back in Minnesota for a revival at its first home, the Illusion in Minneapolis, where it was the first collaboration between the playwright and theater.

Hatcher's play is built on three monologues from characters at a Midwestern funeral home. The new production stars James Cada as Emil in "Tell-Tale," Carolyn Pool plays Mac in "The Thief of Tears," and Barbara Kingsley, a participant in the original script workshops for the play in 1992, plays Virginia in "Thirteen Things about Ed Carpolotti."

We caught up with the always-busy Hatcher before the show opened last weekend.

What has it been like revisiting the piece for the Illusion after all of these years?

I hadn't seen the play in a few years, so when we had the first read-through I was surprised by some of the "period" details: nobody uses a cell phone, characters have to wait for newspapers to be delivered, and so forth. Most of it didn't seem to be from another century (which it is), although there is a reference to H.R. Haldeman that may elude the Twitter bunch.

How has the play changed since its first Illusion performances?

Very little. The first Illusion version was in the summer of 1994, then the play premiered in New York at Manhattan Theatre Club six months later in 1995. I rewrote parts of the second monologue, "The Thief of Tears," for the MTC opening, but the script hasn't changed since.

Going back in time a bit, what was it about the funeral home setting that inspired you?

It was my father's funeral.  He died at Christmas 1993, and, as tends to happen, I spent a lot of time with the funeral director. At some point during a lull I remember asking him, "So. Any good stories?"  He suddenly came to life and told me all these strange things that had happened at this funeral or that viewing.

What's next? Any new pieces that are upcoming? Will Ten Chimneys be performed locally any time soon?

We're about to open a new comedy, Louder Faster, in Pittsburgh. It's co-written by Eric Simonson, who is directing Wuthering Heights at the Minnesota Opera. Then Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club in Arizona this fall, and The Peony Pavilion, a musical Maury Yeston and I have written, will premiere in Beijing at Thanksgiving. As for Ten Chimneys, it's going to be in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Cleveland this coming season, but no plans yet for a Twin Cities production.

Three Viewings runs through May 14.

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