‘Paris Letter’ promises to be unforgettable 

click to enlarge The Paris Letter
  • From left, Paul Collins, Ron Dritz, Tom Reilly and David Ewing appear in the Bay Area premiere of “The Paris Letter” at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. Jon Robin Baitz’s provocative, emotional play is about a young gay man’s curbed homophobia and fear of homosexuality.
Playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s “The Paris Letter” stands out for its gripping and provocative subject matter _ something both “haunting and daunting” for director George Maguire to bring to life in the show’s Bay Area premiere at the New Conservatory Theatre Center.

“I really resonate with plays with language. And when I say language, I mean smart,” Maguire says about the show, which examines the turmoil spawned by a young gay man’s curbed homophobia and fear of homosexuality. “I am an East Coast boy. And the play takes place there, spanning a long period of time. When I was sent the play and read it, I immediately recognized myself in it. It’s very autobiographical in many ways.”

“The Paris Letter” is a good fit for Maguire, a longtime NCTC collaborator whose work on “Maurice,” “Shakespeare’s R & J” and “Mambo Italiano” depended on his ability not only to comprehend the breadth of the production, but draw deep from his actors’ emotional reservoirs.

Baitz, who birthed TV’s “Brothers & Sisters” and Broadway’s “Other Desert Cities,” doesn’t hold back in this story of Sandy, who spends a lifetime hiding his feelings and betraying his loved ones, and not just his lover, Anton.

Another character, Burt — played by Neil Patrick Harris in New York and Los Angeles productions — also is affected by Sandy’s dilemmas in a tale that spans from 1962 to 2002 and unravels against a Wall Street backdrop.

The story, which is told predominantly through flashbacks, might particularly captivate audiences ages 55 or older, Maguire says, but its depictions of love, fear and authenticity resonate with all age groups.

“When I talked to the older people who have seen this, they said they were in tears and afterward they want to sit around and talk,” he says. “This isn’t like going to see something that is written light and frivolous and then, when it’s all over, you leave and go, ‘Oh, that was fun.’ It’s not that at all. People want to talk about the play. And that is something I want — that it’s a play they will not forget.”


The Paris Letter

Presented by the New Conservatory Theatre Center

Where: Walker Theatre, 25 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes Feb. 23

Tickets: $25 to $45

Contact: (415) 861-8972, www.nctcsf.org

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