Humans' diametrically opposed desires are at the center of two love stories in The Old Globe's world premiere "The Wanderers."
For lead Daniel Eric Gold, the star of ABC's "Ugly Betty" and Amazon's "Good Girls Revolt," the play was a unique chance to explore a universal truth.
"The play is called 'The Wanderers' because it’s really about the struggle I think all of us feel, that there is some other life out there that is somehow more fulfilling or the life that we’re supposed to be leading," Gold, who plays Abe, explained.
There are two storylines at the center of the Globe-commissioned play: Abe and Julia (Janie Brookshire), high profile celebrities starting a flirtatious correspondence, despite the fact that both are married. Then there's Esther (Ali Rose Dachis) and Schmuli (Dave Klasko), two shy young Orthodox Jews, strangers to each other, embarking on an arranged marriage.
In the play, Abe's troubled past comes back to haunt him, Gold said. He struggles with the balance between creating art and spending time with his family - and the idea that the grass may be greener on the other side.
"Very few of us can find true satisfaction, no matter how good your life is, no matter how many good things you have, no matter how much you love your children, you love your wife, sometimes there is still just a nagging feeling, some kind of itch, that there is a better life out there," Gold said.
It's an idea Gold personally relates to, and he draws on that to build his character. With the omnipresence of social media and technology in 2018, he said, there's a disconnect between actual and perceived experience.
"People want, in a bizarre way, for people to have envy of their own lives," Gold said. "They'll take a picture of their food they're eating so that all of the people that know them can experience maximum FOMO [Fear of Missing Out] over not having the brunch that you're having, or not being where you are."
When Gold first got the script, he noticed one of three quotes preceding the play by Esther Perel about the two different things all humans crave: security and newness. It's a theme Ziegler addresses head-on in this play, Gold said.
"It's really universal, I find, that people are constantly thinking that there's some kind of better life around the corner and it's hard to see the miracles that are in your everyday life and to recognize them," Gold said. "It's just kind of a thing where you don't realize how good you have it until you lose it."
In this struggle, Gold says, his character questions the ability to be selfish when it comes to his art.
"One of the characters says, 'Isn't okay to sometimes be selfish?' and my character says, 'Of course, you have to be selfish. Truly, what is there in this world to have faith in besides the self. Certainly not humanity, which is filled with real cruelty, certainly not God, the ultimate unreliability,'" Gold said.
During the course of the play, Gold said, the audience sees two different ways of life: one couple lives a very religious, regimented life, and the other couple lives a more modern, open life.
And that's part of the beauty of the play, Gold says. In both scenarios, despite how different their lives may be, their struggles are universal.
"The play really shows you that in both cases, if there's a set of rules to live by, very specifically when it comes to religion, or more fundamental religion, or other institutions in our country that tell you how you're supposed to live your life, whether there's rules of no rules, it's still hard to figure out how to live a happy life," Gold said.
Gold says that the play has so many layers and elements, it's likely no two audiences members will walk away with the same impression.
But he hopes the audience comes open and ready to embark on a journey, through comedic moments and difficult-to-watch moments. No matter their interpretations of the play, Gold said, he hopes the audience leaves understanding of the importance of gratitude.
"I suppose what I would want them to see is. . .this idea that we should look at the blessing and the miracles that are happening in our lives and not take things for granted, like it's so easy to do, and to hold close the things that are important to us and to let go of the things that are not," Gold said.
"The Wanderers" runs from April 6 to May 6 at The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. The play runs one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. The show contains strong language. Buy tickets here.