“Stan the Man” is now. It’s immediate. And it knows what buttons to push.
Written by Drama Desk award-winner and Emmy nominee Eugene Pack, the fast-paced dark comedy follows the intense, competitive intrigue between three businessmen away at a leadership seminar — portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Blair Underwood and Rob Morrow — exploring their every manipulation in the world of men and the fight for leadership within it, while questioning what is real, and what is not.
“I really believe in this piece,” Pack said during a recent telephone interview. “It’s entertaining and there’s something in it for everyone to really grab onto. I know that this particular cast will really deliver, and it will be so fascinating to watch.”
By the time the playwright sat down with The Sag Harbor Express, the world premiere of the book-in-hand reading on Thursday, July 11, at Guild Hall in East Hampton was sold out— as was its encore on Friday, July 12 — but that did not stop him from diving into the inner-workings of the play for those who cannot attend.
“This is a sneak preview for people that are in the Hamptons to see this work being debuted. There’s never been a run of it, yet, and that’s why this is very special,” he said. “It’s a 90-minute rollercoaster ride—fast-moving, funny, dramatic, dark, entertaining, and an opportunity to really experience three fantastic actors that make the experience of going to see theater so live and surprising and exciting, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s going to be packed audiences.”
The Sag Harbor Express: What is the inspiration behind this play?
Eugene Pack: I was doing a lot of traveling for different projects at a time, staying at various hotels and observing dynamics between a lot of different people — and the characters that you find in hotels and conventions and conferences — and overhearing their conversations. I was interested in what happens when people are confined in a competitive situation outside of their normal habitat, so to speak, and what happens as a result.
How does the plot unfold?
This play takes place over one weekend at a leadership seminar for a company. Somebody is going to get a promotion, other people are going to get axed, it’s life or death for these people that work in this particular company.
The whole play explores what it is to be a leader — why would somebody get promoted, what are people looking for in leadership, what does it take? Is it wisdom, is it age, is it being the most outspoken person, the most manipulative? And this play unfolds in a very short amount of time between these three guys who are paired up inadvertently.
I want to keep the energy of this piece where you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time, trying to figure out who is playing whom, and how do these chess pieces move? Who has the power, who doesn’t have the power, who’s manipulating, who’s pretending, who’s telling the truth? And it’s a comedy at the same time.
Let’s talk about the three men themselves.
Yes. Stan the Man is the pivotal character, tossed between these two other characters, who are complete opposite of him. Carter, played by Blair Underwood, he’s absolutely neutral and fair and honest, and then you have Bennett, played by Alec Baldwin, that appears to be the aggressor, someone who is completely arrogant — these are broad strokes, you have to really experience the play. And then you have Stan the Man, who’s in the middle, treading water, figuring out his place and how he’s going to react to all the energy around him.
What was the casting process like for these three characters?
Alec Baldwin initiated a workshop with me; he wanted to work on one of my plays and be in it, and I was thrilled. I’ve worked with Alec before, but never on one of my original pieces. This was really an absolute exciting thrill for me to do, and I put the rest of the cast together.
Rob Morrow is somebody I’ve also worked with before and thought of him, and Blair Underwood is somebody I’ve wanted for this role for a really long time in the back of my head. So I made it happen, and it’s happening!
Yes it is! What is it about Blair that fits this role so well?
Blair has this charm about him, and at the same time, it’s layered. He brings so much to all of his roles, and then there’s also a charm about him that draws you in. In this particular role, as an audience member perhaps, you’re not quite sure what’s behind all of that. He brings a very specific quality to the role and the play.
And why do Alec and Rob fit their respective characters?
I really feel like Rob can bring a real human quality to his roles and can be really vulnerable, and he’s also charismatic at the same time, so there’s a balance between him being sensitive and having a lot of charisma and winning charm, and all those qualities are so fantastic to bring to the role.
And Alec, in my mind, in this particular character that is so aggressive, so self-assured — we think — and able to probe and prod and get under everyone’s skin, I felt like he can bring so much to that.
What was the biggest challenge in writing “Stan the Man”?
Ultimately, you want your audiences to be in the moment and experience the story on stage, and for me, this particular piece was important for me to write it honestly and communicate the story, yet, also knowing that I want to entertain people and engage them. That’s what’s always a challenge.
It’s important to capture the reality of the situation, and it’s dark, but at the same time, I want to entertain the audience and for it to be comedy, and for people to be completely in the moment with these characters every step of the way, so they’re not thinking about anything else, except what they’re watching.
To me, to have these three really exceptional actors working together on stage will deliver this like I can’t imagine, and really make it an event.
How do you imagine the play will evolve after this reading?
The ultimate goal, and I’m determined, the next step will be a major run. I love anything presented at Guild Hall — the energy, the audiences, the theater itself, the history — and I would love to bring this, of course, to New York after this, to the city.
It is a three-character piece and it touches on a lot of themes that are really relevant today: what makes people do what they do, make crazy decisions, and how they’re influenced and manipulated by other people. As we see what’s going on in the world right now and in our country, we see how people can be swayed and influenced, and we’re always questioning the truth.
I feel like in this comedic business atmosphere, we see those dynamics within the story I’m telling. I would love this play to have the opportunity to be performed in front of as many audiences as possible, and as many cities all around. I think it’s universal and it’s really entertaining, and it moves really quickly. The pace of it will keep you engaged.
“Stan the Man,” a new dark comedy by Eugene Pack starring Alec Baldwin, Blair Underwood and Rob Morrow, will have staged readings on Thursday, July 11, and Friday, July 12, at 8 p.m. at Guild Hall, located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Tickets range from $30 to $75, or $28 to $70 for members, but are currently sold out. For more information, call (631) 324-4050 or visit guildhall.org.