An original drama at St. Luke’s, this weekend only 1

Martha Morenstein as the titular character in Jean Tessier’s original play “Goodnight, Irene.”

It was in 2016 that Kew Gardens resident Jean Tessier was inspired to write a play surrounding her grandmother’s fears that in the distant past she had killed someone.

The result, “Goodnight, Irene,” made its debut that same year at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, and now, in an expanded version, the play is to be performed by The Gingerbread Players of Saint Luke’s Church in Forest Hills for two performances only, on Aug. 20 and 21.

Between the two bookings, at the height of the Covid pandemic, the work was presented via Zoom. The upcoming engagement marks the in-person debut of the full-length version of the play.

“It’s based on stories and lies told by my grandmother,” Tessier explained in a recent telephone interview. It addresses “how the truth can get filtered through our own memories and desires.”

According to Tessier, it took her only about four weeks to write the original version but another two years to flesh out the final one, much of it happening during the pandemic.

The Gingerbread bill will also include three short plays by nationally recognized playwrights, all of which were recently included in a one-act festival at The Secret Theatre in Woodside.

In Tessier’s play, Martha Morenstein portrays the grandmother, Irene, described by the playwright as “an elderly woman with memories of how her life’s events unfolded.” The victim in question was Irene’s stepson Bobby, to be played by Joaquin Hayes-Diaz. Farah Diaz-Tello appears as Joanna, a granddaughter who is ensnared in Irene’s memories and who, in the play, is “a proxy for all the grandchildren.”

The real-life Joanna has seen the two earlier versions and, according to Tessier, she is “wholeheartedly in support of the story.”

The cast also includes such Gingerbread stalwarts as Andrew Dinan and Bart DeFinna.

According to Tessier, Irene’s stories “were different depending on whom she was talking to.”

While Bobby’s death was ultimately attributed to diphtheria, and grandma was, perhaps, suffering from guilt from negligence, “We’ll never know the truth,” Tessier said.

She described the play as being “definitely a drama with comedic moments.” She would recommend it for anyone over the age of 12, saying, “It wouldn’t be accessible to someone younger.”

Neither the play nor its title has a direct connection to the old song of the same name, but Tessier said she “probably had it in mind” when she named her play. And she hopes the title will “call to mind” a certain era for anyone old enough to remember those days.

While the Gingerbread troupe is primarily known for its family-friendly musicals and classic works by the likes of William Shakespeare, Tessier explained that the summer slot is being used “to try things out, to give actors new opportunities.”

The upcoming weekend should prove a feast for the actors, which include both Gingerbread veterans as well as several newcomers.

Johnny Culver, like Tessier, a longtime Gingerbread mainstay, will direct her play as well as the three shorter pieces.

The latter consist of: “Salt Mine Exchange,” which Culver said was “written as a job interview that turns into something a little more tense”; “Amulet,” which he said is about “a Jewish woman who doesn’t want to give her baby up to the Devil”; and “The Dead Game,” a comedy about “a woman in the last moments of her life.”

The three pieces were written by playwrights from across the country: Texas, Massachusetts and California. Culver said he had worked with all three authors on previous projects.

The one thing the plays have in common, Culver said, is they’re all “a bit off-kilter. They don’t take place in reality. They’re in three separate universes.”

Performances of the suite of four shows at Saint Luke’s, located at 85 Greenway South in Forest Hills, are Aug. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 21 at 2:30 p.m. The suggested donation is $15. Masks will be required inside the auditorium. For more information, one may call (718) 268-7772.