August 17, 2019

Actress Flips the Script in ‘Too Much Sun’

Diane Cary and Autumn Reeser play mother and daughter in Nicky Silver’s “Too Much Sun.” Photo by Adam Bucci

“I knew from the time I could speak that I wanted to have a career in the theater,” playwright Nicky Silver told the Journal via phone from his home in London. “I didn’t think of myself as a writer for a very long time after I was one. I thought of myself as someone who makes theater.”

Now, one of his plays, “Too Much Sun,” makes its West Coast debut at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles on March 1. The play, which originally ran off-Broadway in 2014, is about family, romance and connection, Silver said. 

In the play, actress Audrey Langham (Diane Cary) reaches her breaking point during a rehearsal. She walks out of the production and into the Cape Cod summer house of her married daughter. This sets off a chain of events, including a romance between Audrey and Winston, the widower next door. The mix of characters includes Audrey’s son-in-law, Winston’s son and Audrey’s agent’s assistant, Gil, who wanted to be a rabbi. 

Silver, 59, wrote the play following a request from actress Linda Lavin, who had performed in his 2012 production of “The Lyons.” Lavin asked Silver to write a role for her, so he created Audrey (which Lavin played in the New York production). 

“In  ‘The Lyons,’ one of the things that happens to [Lavin’s] character is her husband dies and she leaves her children to go off and have a new adventure in life,” Silver said. “[‘The Lyons’] is about the idea that if you cannot find a meaningful connection in your family, you ought to look for it somewhere else.”

“[In ‘Too Much Sun’], people who have been estranged for such a very long time find some way to come together.”
— Nicky Silver

Sitting down to write “Too Much Sun,” Silver said he wanted “to show the flip side. Here, people who have been estranged for such a very long time find some way to come together.”

As in many of Silver’s plays, some of his characters in “Too Much Sun” are Jewish, others are not. “Linda Lavin is Jewish, so I think of [Audrey] as Jewish,” Silver said. “However, the man who played her paramour from next door was so Waspy.”

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Silver described an upbringing that helped foster his writing skills. 

“My parents were both extremely funny in what is generally referred to as a Jewish sense of humor, but also in different ways,” he said. “My father was much more ironic and my mother was much more on-the-nose.

“I do think the cultural attachment Jews have to education and thus to language plays a part in why I became a writer,” he added. “My father particularly spoke very well and had a huge vocabulary. My mother had a definite Philadelphia accent, my father didn’t. My father was Ivy League-educated, my mother was not.”

Silver skipped his final year of high school and attended New York University at 17. He lived in New York for 40 years before moving to London last spring.

Of his move across the pond, Silver said, “I’d come to London for vacation once a year for many years and always loved it. A few years ago, I remember thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if life was always like this?’ Then I realized I have the power to make it so.”

As for his work, Silver said, “Theater is about language and pictures, so I think that is a combination of each of their strong suits. When I write a play, I have a very strong sense of the visual.” 

And when it comes to “Too Much Sun,” Silver said, despite some dark elements, the play is “gentle, forgiving and loving” with an ending that’s “fun and life-affirming.”

“Too Much Sun” runs through April 21 at the Odyssey Theatre. Visit or call (310) 477-2055, ext. 2 for more information.