The Apple Family returns with ‘What Do We Need to Talk About?’ on Zoom

In 2010, award-winning playwright Richard Nelson began his series of plays in The Rhinebeck Panorama, named for the town in upstate New York where he lives. After ten years of installments on the everyday lives of The Apple Family, The Gabriels, and The Michaels, which played Off-Broadway at The Public Theater, the cycle returns on Wednesday, April 29, with a live performance on Zoom of Nelson’s newest and fifth play on The Apples – who were last seen in 2014 – What Do We Need to Talk About?

As with the others in the ongoing cycle, this latest installment will offer insight into the life, outlook, and concerns – personal, social, and political – of an ordinary family in real-time America. But unlike the others, this one is not set at the dinner table, but during a digital group conversation on Zoom, in our current period of coronavirus and quarantine (when Nelson, who also directs, wrote it).

The original Apple Family cast. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Members of the original Apple family cast – Jon DeVries (Benjamin), Stephen Kunken (Tim), Sally Murphy (Jane), Maryann Plunkett (Barbara), Laila Robins (Marian), and Jay O. Sanders (Richard) – will perform from their homes, in isolation, on the popular digital platform, as if participating in a true virtual conversation. The familiar format of a Zoom call will once again break the boundaries between real life and theater, in the signature style of Nelson and his minimalist epic.

The hour-long world premiere, which can be accessed for free, is being presented as a benefit for The Public Theater. Donations can be made online, on The Public’s website.

What Do We Need to Talk About? will stream live on Wednesday, April 29, at 7:30 pm, on The Public Theater YouTube channel, and will be available for the following four days. To view, go online.

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Deb Miller
Deb Miller (PhD, Art History) is the Senior Correspondent and Editor for New York City, where she grew up seeing every show on Broadway. She is an active member of the Outer Critics Circle and served for more than a decade as a Voter, Nominator, and Judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre. Outside of her home base in NYC, she has written and lectured extensively on the arts and theater throughout the world (including her many years in Amsterdam, London, and Venice, and her extensive work and personal connections with Andy Warhol and his circle) and previously served as a lead writer for Stage Magazine, Phindie, and Central Voice.


  1. The Public Theater just announced that this latest installment in The Apple Family series will be back online, by popular demand, through Sunday, June 28. The original world-premiere performance, livestreamed on April 29, played to an audience of over 5,000 viewers and its limited four-day run was seen more than 47,000 times across 30 countries worldwide.


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