FAU’s Theatre Lab Taking Acclaimed Show to Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse

Theater Lab, the professional resident performance company at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, will travel north to Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts later this summer to present one of its most critically acclaimed, award-winning productions, To Fall in Love

The play, written by Jennifer Lane, will make its New England premiere during the two-week period from Wednesday, July 26 to Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Patricia Neal Stage, 24 Church St. in Vineyard Haven, Mass. Tickets are available at https://mvplayhouse.org/theater/.

“Jennifer Lane was part of Theatre Lab’s first New Play Festival in late 2015 and I was fortunate enough to direct her play and get to know her during that time,” said Matt Stabile, producing artistic director at Theater Lab who also stars in To Fall in Love with Niki Fridh, an award-winning actress who is also his real-life wife. 

Matt Stabile and Niki Fridh appear in the original presentation of To Fall in Love at Theatre Lab in Boca Raton. (Photo by Morgan Sophia Photography)

Matt said Jennifer “sent me an early draft of this play and I immediately called her and said, ‘I want to be in this play, and I know the perfect person to play the other role.’”

The production was originally scheduled to open in March 2020 at FAU as the final production during Theatre Lab’s 2019-20 season. A preview performance was held on Thursday, March 12, 2020, before the theater closed the following day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We knew we had something special,” said Louis Tyrrell, founding director of Theatre Lab who directed To Fall in Love.  “So, it was a fairly easy decision to just wait until the time was safe for us to share it with our audiences.”

That day finally arrived nearly 18 months later when in November 2021, Theatre Lab was able to remount the production.

“The set, lights, costumes, even the stuff on our dressing tables, just stayed exactly as they were the day we closed,” said Stabile. “When we first returned to the space, it was like walking into a time capsule. And remounting the production actually proved to be like a form of therapy. The play is all about processing grief and there had been a lot of grief during that past year and a half.”

The show features Stabile and Fridh as estranged married couple Merryn and Wyatt. The play takes place in “real time” as the couple navigates a series of questions first published in the New York Times in an attempt to save their marriage which was splintered by tragedy. 

Matt Stabile and Niki Fridh appear in the original presentation of To Fall in Love at Theatre Lab in Boca Raton. (Photos by Morgan Sophia Photography)

“We went back into rehearsal for a week prior to the opening of that remount,” said Fridh. “We thought we were just ‘brushing up,’ but the production, particularly what we were bringing as actors, actually changed quite a bit during that week.”

“At first,” she said, “we were asking ‘Okay, what did we do in this part?’ But because, like the rest of the world, we had changed so much over that previous year, that pretty quickly turned into ‘Yeah. That’s what we did, but what are we doing now?’”

“The connection to the struggle to move through grief and somehow find your way back to beauty became so much clearer,” Tyrrell said. “Everything we did focused on the love these two characters have for one another and how focusing everything on that love was the only way through the pain. It was one of the more memorable processes of my career and I’m so grateful to have shared it with family like Matt and Niki.”

In addition to critical acclaim, the production was recognized in several categories by the Silver Palm Awards in November 2022, including “Outstanding Direction” to Tyrrell, “Outstanding Performance” to Fridh and “Outstanding Intimacy Direction” to Nicole Perry.

The set at the playhouse in Martha’s Vineyard will have some slight modifications due to the space differences and because of that, the lighting will be redesigned. But the rest of the production will be presented as it was at Theatre Lab in 2021.

Matt Stabile and Niki Fridh appear in the original presentation of To Fall in Love at Theatre Lab in Boca Raton. (Photos by Morgan Sophia Photography)

Theatre Lab is dedicated exclusively to new work and several of the plays it has developed and or produced over the past eight seasons have moved on to additional productions at theaters across the country. Although their digital production of Vanessa Garcia’s Ich Bin Ein Berliner was streamed to venues in Miami and Atlanta, this is the first time the company will present its version of a stage production in a new venue.

“This show is so incredibly special to us,” said Stabile. “And we couldn’t be more grateful to Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse for the opportunity to revisit it and share it with their community.”

For more information about Theatre Lab, visit www.fau.edu/theatrelab.  

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *