Good fences make good neighbors, right? But what about clotheslines?
Audrey Cefaly’s charming comedy, Maytag Virgin, centers on two neighbors in a small Alabama town who are both dealing with the everyday struggles of loss, love, and life.
At first glance, the two neighbors couldn’t be more different—the backyard of one house is cluttered, filled with moving boxes and furniture, while the other is adorned with an eclectic array of wind chimes, birdhouses, and bottle trees. In place of a white picket fence, a simple clothesline separates the two homes.
The moving boxes belong to Jack Key, a high school physics teacher who is new to town. Sparks fly right away when he meets Lizzy, his next-door neighbor, when she brings over a freshly baked “welcome to the neighborhood” pie and, in return, he hands her an ice-cold Coke.
As they start talking, Jack and Lizzy discover that they are more alike than they initially thought. Lizzy used to teach English in the same classroom that Jack will be taking over soon. They both love a good home-cooked meal and have a special place in their hearts for butter pecan ice cream. They’ve both lost their spouses and are at a loss about what to do next.
“There are a lot of people in the world, like Jack and Lizzy, who are adrift, unmoored, and looking around for something that feels like home,” said Audrey Cefaly, the playwright. “Maytag Virgin says, ‘Yeah, and you know what? That’s kinda beautiful.’ It’s beautiful because we often find ourselves at the very moment we are doing our darnedest to love someone through the hell of life.”
As time passes and Jack and Lizzy talk, argue, and try not to reveal too much about their pasts, their relationship begins to change and a unique bond begins to form. Can these neighbors and friends be vulnerable enough to seize a second chance at love, life, and happiness? Or will they keep putting up fences?
“What lies at the heart of this play is the need to take risks in the face of love,” said Director Kate Alexander. “Love is about the risk of revealing who you truly are, including your vulnerabilities and imperfections. Maytag Virgin celebrates these two bright, glorious, and wounded individuals who are afraid of reaching past their comfortable selves and taking a chance on something.”
Although Cefaly’s play specifically focuses on two neighbors in the South, the tension and conflicts that Jack and Lizzy grapple with are relatable challenges that many couples face.
“When I write, I focus on two-handers and character-driven narratives. They are all love stories,” said Cefaly. “We see ourselves in the characters, not because we recognize them, but because we recognize the ache.”
Cefaly has distinguished herself as a master of shaping compelling characters. The Washington Post wrote, “Cefaly makes her characters rich and mixed-up enough for us to build some real affection for them.”
Kate Alexander agrees.
“Her characters are full-bodied—dynamic, witty, intelligent, and complex,” said Alexander. “Jack and Lizzy are full of wondrous and poignant holes that make you laugh and feel a heartfelt ferocity.”
Bringing that boldness to the character of Lizzy is FST Associate Artist Rachel Moulton, who audiences will recognize from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2019), Honor Killing (2018), and Alabama Story (2016).
“Lizzy is a force! She leads with her heart,” said Moulton. “She is honest, effervescent, extremely funny, animated, and a God-fearing southern woman. She is, at the same time, both lonely and fiercely independent. She is also incredibly brave. She is on an incredibly intricate and very relatable emotional journey.”
Maytag Virgin begins playing Tuesday, June 29, in FST’s Keating Theatre, and marks the eighth time that Moulton and Alexander have worked together on a play at FST.
“That is a miracle in this business,” said Alexander. “Rachel is also a rarefied human being. Her sensitivities are acute and luminous—she will light up the dark night of the soul of Lizzy and bring out her quirky, delicious humor. There is no one I can picture doing this role other than Rachel Moulton.”
So join us this summer for Maytag Virgin, an uplifting story about love, life, and laundry.
For tickets and more information, click here.
Header Images: Rachel Moulton (Lizzy Nash) and Blake Price (Jack Key). Photos courtesy of the artists.