almost a wild animal kind of reaction to protect her,” McDonald said. “But another part of it is — and this happens with children — that he realizes that there are whole parts of her life that are separate from him that she has relationships that have nothing to do with him, that there are parts of her day he knows nothing about. That’s both necessary and good, but it’s also frightening.”
is a meditation on faith, love, illness, difference, fatherhood, and a host of other themes, only some of which McDonald was conscious of during the writing. Even though she considered it all very literal, there is a magical-realism quality to the play that allows audiences to read symbolism and metaphor into Ariel’s condition that reflects their own experiences. The first production, in 1995 at the La Jolla Pla yhouse, was directed by Michael Mayer, who went on to co-write and direct and win a 2007 Tony Award for directing McDonald knew him from graduate school but was not sure he the right fit for this piece, since he usually did musical theater and had no children. “I had this idea that only a father would get this play,” she said. She met with Mayer anyway, at the urging of the theater’s artistic director.
“I asked him what he connected to in the play, and he got tears in his eyes and said, ‘This is a play about and how you go on from it, and no one will love this play more than gay men.’ I was stunned. But in that first production, the repeat audience was gay men. That really shifted my thinking about who I should be collaborating with, because I realized I didn’t need a director who brought exactly what I bring, because I already bring that. It also shifted my thinking about writing what is true to me and trusting that people will respond to the ideas and themes. I thought it was such a weird piece, way too odd, but people in the cried and stayed after and wanted to talk.”