His first reaction was simply how funny the play was. “She doesn’t write a dull line,” Mr. Goold said over the phone. And although he was surprised at its overtly political nature — not typical of Ms. Washburn’s writing — addressing how theater can respond to politics was certainly appealing.
Mr. Goold had some concern it would be too American. “But the inability for metropolitans to come to terms with the shamanistic power of populism is as relevant here as it is over there,” he added.
Ms. Washburn was surprised at his interest, but then, she initially didn’t think anyone would want her Trump play. “I thought no one would ever want to spend any more time talking about it than we already do,” she said. “But I did want to get into the intricate, really overheated language we were all partaking in. What is it like to put this time on paper?”
Inevitably, then, “Shipwreck” is a talky, thinky piece, but Ms. Washburn’s skewering of the chattering classes is as sparkling as it is spiky. (Tara Fitzgerald, Selyse Baratheon on “Game of Thrones,” is best-known in the cast of British theater regulars.) She’s always shown forensic interest in the way we speak and the stories we tell, from making up her own language for 2006’s “The Internationalist” to tracing the mutation of culture in “Mr. Burns.”
There’s also a through-line with “The Twilight Zone.” The British theater and opera director Richard Jones had brought her onto that project, having been impressed by the “audacity” of “Mr. Burns.” He described Ms. Washburn as “a brainiac” — but a hilarious one, who is “very joyful to work with.”
Ms. Washburn was working on it during the 2016 presidential campaign, and found herself wondering: “What is America doing? Where did this thing come from?”
“The Twilight Zone,” she added, “felt like the subconscious of America laid bare.”
She has now done the same thing in “Shipwreck,” once again reflecting America back at itself — even if it is London audiences who will get the first look.