Rubicon Theatre Company continues its 2009-2010 Season with the Central Coast Premiere of a timely drama about a fascinating and enigmatic figure in American history. Trying, which opens March 13 and runs through April 4th, is a poignant, poetic and powerful story about a relationship between Francis Biddle, Attorney General under Roosevelt and Chief Judge at the Nuremburg trials; and Sarah, a tenacious 25-year-old woman from the Canadian plains, one of a string of secretaries Biddle's wife has hired to help him put his affairs in order at the end of his long an illustrious career. Biddle, 81, is in poor health, proud and cantankerous as he begins to confront his own mortality. Sarah, however, is also headstrong, and from her early life on the prairie has developed a strength and wisdom beyond her years. Despite the difference in ideologies and age, the two forge a friendship. The play is autobiographical in nature and is written by Joanna McClelland Glass, who worked for Biddle in the late 60s.
One New York critic, in writing about Trying, said that the play "demands a duo who work unfailingly in synch, with a cadence that plays to little intellectual dances." That's exactly what audiences will get at Rubicon, where the actors have been working in synch for much of their lives. The production stars father-and-daughter actors Robin Gammell and Winslow Corbett.
Scion of an old Philadelphia Mainline family (his ancestor William Biddle bought land directly from William Penn and he was a distant relative of James Madison), the real Francis Biddle was a complicated man. A Harvard graduate and a successful attorney, he threw off the expectations of his upbringing and made it his life's work to stand up for the downtrodden and fight for what is right. And yet, despite his sense of social justice and the great good he achieved in his lifetime (he was part of the tribunal that convicted Hermann Goering and Rudolph Hess), he was not without contradictions. It was Biddle's duty during World War II to order the FBI to round up Japanese-born American citizens and take them to interment camps, a fact that continued to haunt him throughout his life. In a letter to Stanford Professor Shiko Furukawa, he later wrote, "Never again will I trust that mystic cliche 'military necessity.'Robin Gammell, who plays Biddle, is a longtime veteran of stage and screen. He has appeared at Rubicon in Waiting for Godot , A Delicate Balance , and You Can't Take It With You. Other credits include the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Stratford Festival of Canada. Regional credits include the Guthrie (where he worked for many years with Rubicon alum Sonny Van Dusen and Len Cariou), the Taper, Long Wharf, and The Old Globe. Gammell's numerous TV and film credits include "Dave," "Guilty by Suspicion," "Circle of Two," "Bulworth," "Austin Powers," "Full Circle," "Sister Act II" and "Star Chamber," among others. His dozens of television credits include "Saving Grace," "Eli Stone," "Nip/Tuck," " Providence," and others.
Joining Gammell on stage as Sarah, is his daughter Winslow Corbett, who made her Rubicon debut (and worked with her father for the first time ever) in You Can't Take It With You, playing Alice Sycamore. Although recently graduated from the conservatory at program at SUNY Purchase, Corbett (also the daughter of actress Gretchen Corbett), has amassed an impressive number of credits. In New York, she has appeared as Thea in The Lark at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Jill in The Skin Game for the Mint Theatre, and Gladys in Skin of Our Teeth at Lincoln Center Director's Lab. She recently made her South Coast Rep debut as Poppy in Noises Off . In the National Tour of The Graduate , she starred as Elaine. Other credits include Williamstown Theatre Festival, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, ACT and Pittsburgh Public. Winslow should prove to be not only a match for Judge Biddle, but for Gammell as well.
Trying originated at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, where The Chicago Sun-Times called the play, "One of the finest pieces of theatre I have seen in many years -- a glittering, diamond-hard script." It moved Off-Broadway in 2004 in a production starring Fritz Weaver and was one of the final roles essayed by James Whitmore (in Washington, D.C. ). Alan Mandell garnered great acclaim as Biddle for his performance and encore run at the Colony Theatre a few years ago. The production has continued to receive recognition throughout the world. Of the London premiere in 2009, critic Kevin Quarmby wrote, "It's rare to leave a theatre having been moved to laughter and tears by a production, the simplicity and integrity of which is as refreshing as it is strangely reassuring. Trying by Joanna McClelland Glass is an astonishing play."
Tickets may be purchased in person through the Rubicon Theatre Company box office, located at 1006 E. Main Street ( Laurel entrance). To charge by phone, call 805-667-2900. Or visit Rubicon online at www.rubicontheatre.org .