An unusual real-life story sparked the inspired two writers tocompose a story of sex, love and parenthood was born. “Tom, Dick and Harriet” is the brainchild of Shankar Vedantam, a former Philadelphia Inquirer author and Donald Drake, a former Inquirer editor.
Vedantam and Drake first conceived of “Tom, Dick and Harriet” over a 1999 lunch in Chinatown. Vedantam was working on a news story about a Pennsylvania man who determined through a DNA test that the son for whom he had been paying child support was not his own. This front-page story inspired possibilities for a play and they played around with the idea.
“As lunch continued, our imaginations stayed with the concept as we came up with more and more ridiculous and shameful situations that could arise from such testing,” Drake said. “By the time we paid the check, we had decided to write a play.”
In 2001, Drake began playwriting full time and Vedantam moved to a job at The Washington Post. But they continued to collaborate over the Internet and worked out the play together.
Since then, “Tom, Dick, and Harriet” was a winner at a playwriting competition sponsored by the Playwrights Center of San Francisco. A revised version was also accepted for a showcase at the Lark Theater in New York City. The next version was entered in a national competition sponsored by The Brick Playhouse and won the 2nd Annual Brick Playhouse Award for Outstanding Writing.
As part of that award, “Tom, Dick and Harriet” will receive its world premiere at The Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St., from April 7-25.
After winning the award, The Brick Playhouse, as per its tradition and commitment, assisted in the creation, development and production of the play. It made a general call for auditions and chose the cast. On the surface the play is about three people – Tom, Dick and Harriet – who live together and are in love. Harriet decides to have a baby with both Tom and Dick so that her baby will reflect both their qualities. The play reaches its crux when, 10 years later, the threesome becomes concerned about who is the child’s real father.
The play explores the dynamics of relationships on different levels.
“Tom is a loyal family man and loving father but also the weakest of the threesome. His challenge is to decide if having a title is as valuable as playing a role in his son’s life and whether or not to protect his own desires at the possible expense of relationships,” said Christopher Schimpf, the actor who portrays Tom.
The story becomes a comical battle over genetics and possessiveness. Johnny Pulcinella, a 6th grader from Wallingford, Pa., plays the illustrious 10-year-old offspring who gives a twist to this this comedy about politics, parents and the press.
“My character has fairly low self-esteem and only wants to live up to his fathers’ expectations,” Pulcinella said.
“Having attended wonderful rehearsals, we love the play and think it is very funny and insightful,” Drake said. “We hope that the audience will go out of the theater smiling and thinking about the important issues we raised in the play.”
The play is directed by Temple alum Connie Norwood. The cast includes Christopher Schimpf, Kara Tyler, Peter Miltz, Johnny Pulcinella and Gene D’Alessandro. For tickets and more information, call (215) 592-1183.
Jinal Shah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org