Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell will present the world premiere of "The Heath" by Lauren Gunderson, one of the most produced playwrights in America, from Wednesday, Feb. 13, through Thursday, March 10, at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre at Liberty Hall.
"The Heath" is a new play by Gunderson ("Silent Sky," "I and You" and this season's "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley") about her relationship with her grandfather. It is directed by MRT Artistic Director Sean Daniels ("The Lion," "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley," "Little Orphan Danny"). The play includes banjo, four original songs and several traditional tunes.
In "The Heath," Gunderson turns her prodigious storytelling skills on herself as she wrestles with how you make peace with a beloved relative who seems unlike you in every way.
For the fourth year in a row, Gunderson made American Theatre Magazine's Top 10 list of the most produced playwrights in America. For the 2017-18 season, she was in the number-one spot. Her other plays include "The Revolutionists," "The Taming," "Natural Shocks," "Ada and the Memory Engine" and "EMILIE: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight."
The MRT production of Gunderson's "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" in December became the best-selling show in the theater's 40-year history.
Of "The Heath," Gunderson said, "I started the script before my PawPaw died as it occurred to me that the only reference I had for his condition was the literary figure of King Lear. It's a love letter to him, an apology and a reckoning, as well as a chance to discover a man I thought I knew so well.
"I was inspired to add banjo to the play when I remembered how much PawPaw loved Flatt and Scruggs bluegrass music," she added. "It felt like a crazy challenge to myself. The songs are simple but full of emotion and heart. The big ending song, "Storm Still," was the most cathartic to write. It really allows me to say, 'I love you, I miss you, I'm proud of you,' to my grandfather."
The play features Miranda Barnett as Lauren and George Judy as KD, her grandfather, and King Lear.
For tickets to "The Heath" or subscriptions, visit www.mrt.org or contact the MRT Box Office at 978-654-4678. Tickets start at $24 for all performances. Subscriptions for the three remaining shows of the season -- "The Heath," Jack Kerouac's "The Haunted Life" and "Cry It Out' -- start at $73.