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By the Waters of Babylon Opens at the San Miguel Playhouse

By Michael Gottlieb

By the Waters of Babylon, by Pulitzer Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, opens Thursday, November 5, at the San Miguel Playhouse. Produced in collaboration with actor/director Alan Jordan, the show is Players Workshop’s 126th production since 1982.

Players Workshop
Nov 6, 7, 8 and Nov 13, 14, 15
Friday and Saturday, 7pm
Sunday, 3pm
San Miguel Playhouse
Independencia 82
US$15 or 200 pesos 9

On a hot afternoon in Austin, Texas, the widowed Catherine hires Arturo, a Cuban writer turned gardener, to tame her overgrown backyard. What begins as a cordial interaction between employer and employee quickly turns into a cautiously intimate encounter between two exiles haunted by pasts they cannot forget. Described by critics as a “passionate, tender, and bittersweet valentine to midlife love,” By the Waters of Babylon is the rare romantic drama that wades through conflict and self-revelation to a resolution of redemption, hope, and the advent of love when you least expect it.  It stars Jill Gottlieb (Catherine) and Erik Zavala (Arturo).

We caught up with the cast and director during a rehearsal break for a chat about the show. “So, let’s start simple,” I began. “Why this show? What draws you to the material?”

Director Alan Jordan answered without hesitation, “By the Waters of Babylon was recommended by a friend who had seen the play in Seattle. The last three plays that I have presented in San Miguel, House, I Am My Own Wife, and Diary of a Madman were all recommendations of theater-goer friends in San Miguel or Toronto. Before the Babylon script was published, I contacted the playwright directly. He sent me the working script of the show, which was just about to open in Los Angeles. Now is the right time to present this dynamic political and romantic drama.”

Gottlieb quickly added, “I see the play as a love story. I think Mr. Schenkkan suggests that human survival depends on our love for our fellow human beings, especially in the darkest times.” Zavala smiled quietly, nodding his head, and added, “The characters and the way they are written carry a peculiar dramatic tension that makes them endearing and unique.”

“Alan,” I asked, “How did you choose Jill and Erik for these incredible roles?”

“When I saw Jill Gottlieb in The Other Place a couple years ago, I knew that I would like to work with her someday,” he answered. “We discussed two different plays, and we both felt that By the Waters of Babylon and the role of Catherine was the most interesting and challenging choice. Erik Zavala was the first actor that I interviewed in San Miguel. I did interview other actors from Mexico City and Guadalajara by Internet and videotape. Erik brought just the right emotional mix to the complicated character of Arturo.”

This show represents a few firsts for Players Workshop. In addition to the collaboration with Jordan, this is our first show at the new San Miguel Playhouse. The 125-seat theater is intimate, comfortable, easy to get to, and a stone’s throw from Centro, with post-show taxi service, and free, secure parking.

Finally, for the first time, audience members can simply and easily purchase their reserved seats online at and at the San Miguel Playhouse box office, Monday-Friday, 10 am-2 pm.


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