MALVERN, PA — Mistaken identities and foolhardy love affairs abound in The Vinegar Tree, Paul Osborn’s rarely produced 1930 comedy of manners, directed by Abigail Adams and onstage at People’s Light June 29 through July 24.
At the center of this delightfully sophisticated confection is Laura Merrick, a restless woman whose marriage to the sour Augustus has brought both security and disappointment. Over the course of one day, the Merricks’ country home is overrun by their daughter Leone and her college sweetheart, Laura’s glamorous sister Winifred, and Winifred’s charming lover. As romances tangle and secrets unfurl, everyone comes to terms with what they truly want. Single tickets to The Vinegar Tree start at $45, including fees. To purchase, call 610.644.3500 or visit peopleslight.org. People’s Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road in Malvern, PA.
Paul Osborn (1901-1988) was a successful American playwright and screenwriter, known primarily for film adaptations such as East of Eden and South Pacific, yet Osborn is rarely produced today. The Vinegar Tree reunites many of the creative team from another Osborn comedy directed by Adams—People’s Light’s 2018 production of Morning’s at Seven, which received four Barrymore Awards and was hailed by the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout as “one of the finest productions of an American play that I’ve ever reviewed.”
“It’s been a pleasure to reintroduce Osborn’s work to audiences,” says People’s Light Producing Artistic Director Zak Berkman. “While The Vinegar Tree opened 92 years ago, it remains as relatable as ever. If you have ever wondered—Am I living the life I was meant to live? Am I with the person I’m supposed to be with?—you may feel Osborn wrote this funny, ironic, and joyful love letter to you.”
“When I first read the script, I laughed out loud,” shares director Abigail Adams. “It’s been an interesting challenge to capture the sophistication and pathos of Osborn’s comedy onstage, as it calls for a tremendous capacity for vulnerability, which requires a great deal of trust among the cast and creative team. Perhaps that’s why The Vinegar Tree is so rarely produced.
“I’m lucky to have worked with the majority of these artists for years, so the foundation of trust is already there and we can delve all the more deeply into the heart of the play.”
The cast of The Vinegar Tree features People’s Light company members David Ingram (Moon Over Buffalo, Bach at Leipzig) as Augustus; Claire Inie-Richards (Our Town, Project Dawn) as Leone; Teri Lamm (Our Town, Morning’s at Seven) as Laura; Aubie Merrylees (Stargirl, Beautiful Boy) as Geoffrey; Stephen Novelli (Shakespeare in Love, Morning’s at Seven) as Louis; and Julianna Zinkel (The Harassment of Iris Mally, Pride and Prejudice) as Winifred. They are joined by returning artist Christopher Kelly (Noises Off) as Max.
More returning company members include Costume Designer Marla J. Jurglanis (A Christmas Carol, Morning’s at Seven), Lighting Designer Dennis Parichy (The Children, Morning’s at Seven), and Stage Manager Audrey M. Brown (For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, Our Town). Returning designers include Scenic Designer Daniel Zimmerman (The Children, The Harassment of Iris Malloy) and Sound Designer Lee Kinney (The Children, Such Things As Vampires). Dramaturg Geoff Proehl (Richard III, Romeo and Juliet) also returns, assisted by Lorell Perillat. Saladin White II serves as COVID Compliance Manager with company member Kate McSorley Fossner assisting.
Paul Osborn Playwright
(He/him) Son of a moral reformer and itinerant evangelist, Paul Osborn (1901-1988) grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After studying pre-engineering at a local college, he transferred to the University of Michigan, where poet-in-residence Robert Frost became a lifelong friend and mentor. After studying with George Pierce Baker at Yale, Osborn moved to New York in 1927. Antoinette Perry—Tony awards namesake and director of Osborn’s first Broadway show—gave the newcomer an allowance so he could quit his day job and write. The result, The Vinegar Tree (1930)—a “high comedy in spirit . . . farcical in situation, and satirical in intent”—became a critical and commercial success. Ten of Osborn’s plays or adaptations received Broadway productions, including Morning’s at Seven: directed by Abigail Adams at People’s Light in 2018 to critical acclaim. Twice nominated for Academy Awards, twelve of Osborn’s screenplays became major Hollywood films including Madame Curie (1943), The Yearling (1946), East of Eden (1955), and South Pacific (1958).
Abigail Adams Director
(She/her) Company Member since 1976. People’s Light: Senior Director of Special Projects & Executive Artistic Director Emerita. During her 46-year association with the Theatre, Abbey has directed more than sixty plays, including The Children, Our Town, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, Morning’s at Seven, Project Dawn, The Matchmaker, Auctioning the Ainsleys, How to Write a New Book for the Bible, The Cherry Orchard, The Rainmaker, The Trip to Bountiful, Dividing the Estate, Nathan the Wise, and In the Blood. Theatre Includes: Directed readings and workshops of new plays for Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Circle Rep, New York Stage and Film, and the Public Theatre. Teaching: Swarthmore College, New York University, Bryn Mawr College, Carnegie Mellon University, and The Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Ursinus College.
David Ingram Augustus
(He/him) Company Member since 1989. People’s Light: Moon Over Buffalo, Bach at Leipzig, Noises Off, Tuesdays with Morrie, I Have Before Me…, End Days, Once in a Lifetime, The Skin of Our Teeth, A Flea in Her Ear, and many more. Theatre Includes: Indecent, Clybourne Park, Death of a Salesman (Arden Theatre); The Brownings (Philly Live Arts/Orbiter 3): Cherokee (The Wilma); Hope and Gravity, Laughter on the 23rd Floor and Our Show of Shows (1812 Productions); Red Herring, The Tempest (Act II Playhouse); Some Other Kind of Person, The Rant (InterAct); The Government Inspector (Lantern Theater). Training: MFA (NYU). David is on the Theater Faculty at Temple University.
Claire Inie-Richards Leone
(She/her) Company Member since 2015. People’s Light: America 2am, Our Town, Project Dawn, I and You, Sense and Sensibility, The Cherry Orchard, The Emperor’s New Clothes, King Lear, End Days, Eggs, Persians, Getting Near to Baby, Twelfth Night, The Crucible. Theatre Includes: Measure for Measure, Mrs. Warren’s Profession (Lantern Theater Company), Completeness (Theatre Exile), The Revolutionists (Theatre Horizon), A Christmas Carol (Delaware Theatre Company), Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare in Clark Park). Radio: BBC Radio 4. Training: BFA (The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama), MFA (The Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University).
Christopher Kelly Max
(He/him) People’s Light: Noises Off. Theatre Includes: Christopher has performed in award-winning theatres across the U.S., including the Public Theatre in New York City, Denver Center (The Cripple of Inishmaan) Shakespeare Theatre Company D.C. (Henry IV), California Shakespeare (Pericles), Syracuse Stage (In the Next Room), Pioneer Theatre (An Inspector Calls), Theatreworks Silicon Valley (Arcadia), Fulton Opera House (Amadeus), and Asolo Repertory Theatre (Born Yesterday). He has originated roles in multiple world premieres, including Pierre (adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher), Lauren Feldman’s Grace, or the Art of Climbing, and Lyle Kessler’s House on Fire. Film/Television Includes: The Blacklist (NBC), Succession (HBO), The Path (Hulu), Damages (FX), Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (CBS) and the upcoming feature Jules. Training: MFA (NYU Graduate Acting Program). Website: www.christopher-kelly.com
Teri Lamm Laura
(She/her) Company Member since 2015. People’s Light: A Christmas Carol in Concert, Our Town, Sweat, Romeo & Juliet: A Requiem, Morning’s at Seven, The Matchmaker, The Harassment of Iris Malloy, Sense and Sensibility, Auctioning the Ainsleys, The Cherry Orchard, Row After Row, The Trip to Bountiful, Pride and Prejudice. Theatre Includes: The Iceman Cometh (Broadway), Cyrano de Bergerac (Roundabout), Palace of the End, Hannah and Martin, Habitat, Little Eyolf, Time and the Conways (Epic Theater Ensemble), Yale Rep, The Alley, Dallas Theater Center. Film/Television Includes: Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, Third Watch. Training: MFA (NYU).
Aubie Merrylees Geoffry
(He/him) Aubie grew up at People’s Light, and became a member of the company in 2013. People’s Light: Stargirl, Beautiful Boy, A Wrinkle in Time, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, End Days, and America 2am. Theatre Includes: To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway, Wolf Play (Soho Rep); Hamlet, St. Joan (Bedlam, National tour); Hand to God (Philadelphia Theatre Company); Stupid F*cking Bird (Arden Theatre); My Romantic History (Inis Nua); The Liar (The Lantern); A Bright New Boise (Simpatico); and The Aliens (Theatre Exile). Next up: KPOP (Broadway). Training: Brown University; Yale School of Drama.
Stephen Novelli Louis
(He/him) Company Member since 1974. People’s Light: Artistic Associate; Co-Artistic Director 1993-1997; Associate Artistic Director 1997-2009. Actor: Shakespeare in Love, Hamlet, Sister Carrie, A Christmas Carol, Julius Caesar, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Legacy of Light, King Lear, The Winter’s Tale, How to Write a New Book for the Bible, Richard III, The Matchmaker, Morning’s at Seven, Romeo & Juliet: A Requiem, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday. Director: Dutchman, Glengarry Glen Ross, Valley Song, Measure for Measure, Camping With Henry And Tom, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Mystery of Sherlock Holmes.
Julianna Zinkel Winifred
(She/her) Company Member since 2007, Julianna is ecstatic to be back, working with Abigail Adams & the entire People’s Light family. People’s Light: favorite performances include The Harassment of Iris Malloy, Barcelona, Pride and Prejudice, The Trip to Bountiful, The Miser, The Crucible, A Tale of Two Cities, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Theatre Includes: Off Broadway/NYC: Three Men On a Horse (TACT); The Lover (SoHo Playhouse). Regional: Dance Nation, Big Love, Wintertime (Wilma), Fool For Love (EgoPo), Ironbound (Simpatico); Blackbird (Theatre Exile); Under The Skin, Stick Fly, Rabbit Hole, As You Like It, Crime & Punishment (Arden); Mauritius, Brighton Beach Memoirs (Act II Playhouse); The Language Archive (Bristol Riverside); The Eclectic Society (Walnut Street); From Prague (CATF); Love & Communication (Passage). Film/Television Includes: Mare of Easttown (HBO), Fleishman is in Trouble (FX).
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Masks are required indoors for everyone who visits People’s Light, regardless of vaccination status. Audience members must remain masked at all times. For more information on policies at People’s Light, including new seating arrangements, audience capacity, and artist and staff safety, visit the Health and Safety page. Recommended protocols may shift with evolving local and national guidelines, so please continue to check this page for the most up-to-date information when planning your visit to People’s Light.
People’s Light offers socially-distanced performances of The Vinegar Tree, limited to 50% capacity, on the following dates: July 5, 8, 12, 15, 17 (Relaxed Performance), 19, and 22. The Relaxed Performance on July 17 is at 2pm; all other socially distanced performances are at 7:30pm.
The Vinegar Tree previews Wednesday, June 29; Thursday, June 30; and Saturday, July 2 at 8pm. The play opens with an invite-only performance on Sunday, July 3 at 2pm and runs through Sunday, July 24. Standard tickets start at $45, including fees. People’s Light also offers a range of ticket discounts, like a 50%-off Access Night on Tuesday, July 12 at 7:30pm, 25% off for educators and military, and discounted student and instrustry rush tickets. Learn more about available ticket discounts here. To purchase single tickets, visit peopleslight.org or call the Box Office at 610.644.3500.
Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more. For more information, or to purchase group tickets, call Kelly Benedict at 610.647.1900, x111, or email [email protected] .
The Vinegar Tree is recommended for ages 13+ for mature themes.
Actors, prices, productions, performance dates and times are subject to change. Additional service charges may apply.
Beginning with the July 12 performance of The Vinegar Tree, People’s Light offers Smart Caption Glasses, which provide customizable, in-line captioning of the play’s text within smart glasses. In partnership with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University and the National Theatre of Great Britain, People’s Light is the first theatre in the United States to offer Smart Caption Glasses to theatre audiences.
The Vinegar Tree Open Caption (OC) performances run July 12-17 and feature an LED screen near the stage that displays text simultaneously with live speech and action, for individuals with hearing impairment and English language learners. No other elements of the performance change.
People’s Light offers a Relaxed Performance of The Vinegar Tree on Sunday, July 17 at 2pm. Relaxed Performances offer a judgment-free environment that invites individuals with autism, ADD, ADHD, dementia, and other sensory sensitivities to enjoy theatre in a relaxed, “shush-free” zone—a great option for parents with young children, too. Audio description is available at this performance upon request, provided by Nicole Sardella. Tickets to Relaxed Performances are $30, including fees. For more information, contact the Box Office at 610.644.3500.
Service animals are welcome at all performances at People’s Light. The Theatre offers a designated relief area and water bowl for their comfort.
People’s Light offers a range of Audio and Visual Aids freely available to patrons, including audio headsets, T-Coil “induction” loops, large sensory supports like fidgets, noise-canceling headphones, and more. These supports are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with no reservations required. Please pick them up from the House Manager in the theatre lobbies. Learn more about Accessibility at People’s Light here.
THE FERN & FABLE AT PEOPLE’S LIGHT
Scratch cooking and theatrical sensibilities meet in the laid-back atmosphere of The Fern & Fable, just steps away from the Leonard C. Haas Stage. The Theatre’s newly renovated on-site restaurant occupies three rooms of a 1700s farmhouse, complete with two working fireplaces and plenty of historic quirks. During warmer months, guests dine al fresco among lush gardens. Make a reservation on OpenTable. More information at TheFernandFable.com.
Thanks for visiting! MyChesCo brings reliable information and resources to Chester County, Pennsylvania. Please consider supporting us in our efforts. Your generous donation will help us continue this work and keep it free of charge. Show your support today by clicking here and becoming a patron.