Phoenix Theatre Ensemble to Present Tom Stoppard's DOGG'S HAMLET, CAHOOT'S MACBETH, 5/2-23

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Phoenix Theatre Ensemble to Present Tom Stoppard's DOGG'S HAMLET, CAHOOT'S MACBETH, 5/2-23

As a featured event of its Tenth Anniversary Spring Rep season, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble (www.PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org) will present "Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth" by Tom Stoppard from May 2 to 23, 2014 at The Wild Project 195 E. 3rd Street (at Ave. B). It's an evening of two short plays in which Stoppard radically shortens "Hamlet" and "Macbeth" to craft a witty Shakespearean two-step on serious themes of artistic dissent. Kevin Confoy directs.

In "Dogg's Hamlet," an acting company prepares for "Hamlet" performed in its original language: Dogg - a language comprised of English words, but with different meanings. When an English-speaking delivery man arrives with their set, both languages break down and new ways of communication must be devised. The play illustrates the double-meanings often found in repressed societies, where important messages are often delivered in codes. The play caps off with a delightfully hilarious 15-minute "Hamlet," offering Stoppard at his word-playing, gleeful best.

In "Cahoot's Macbeth," which is dedicated to the Czechoslovakian playwright Pavel Kohout, renegade actors stage a deliciously shortened performance of Macbeth under the nose of a secret police officer. The play is about a performance of "Macbeth" that Kohout and his friends once staged in a living room since the government had banned public performances. The action shifts between the bare stage and the police inquiry; the murder and intrigue of Shakespeare's play are juxtaposed with the Czech political harassment. It's a stark and moving metaphor for resistance in a time of censorship.

When the double-bill opened in 1979, Newsweek wrote, "The incorrigibly playful Stoppard has never been more serious than in this most playful of his works. Like George Orwell, Stoppard knows that language and liberty are intertwined when language is perverted, corrupted or forcibly repressed, so is liberty." The Christian Science Monitor called the plays "A blend of comic nonsense and astringent political satire." The New York Times added, "The language and the laughter are contagious...Lewis Carroll would have been at home."

Director Kevin Confoy writes, "Since they were first performed in the late 1970's, Stoppard's plays have never been more resonant than in this age of fractured communication, digital languages, government eavesdropping and info-gathering and yet another Soviet crackdown on free expression."

The actors are Brian A. Costello, LeeAnne Hutchison, John Lenartz, Anthony Martinez, Kyle Nunn, Jason O'Connell, Alexis Powell, Morgan Rosse, Matt Stapleton, Elise Stone and Antonio Edwards Suarez. Set and lighting design are by Jay Ryan. Costume design is by Jennifer Stimple. Sound design is by Jesse Heffler.

Director Kevin Confoy staged Phoenix Theatre Ensemble's production of Ionesco's "The Painting" in 2007 and returns to work his magic on Stoppard's hilarious duo of Bard-inspired plays. Confoy was Resident Director of the Forestburgh Playhouse for three seasons, the Producer of the Sarah Lawrence College Theatre Program and Executive Producer of the Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has directed the first (original) productions of thirteen published plays and directed or produced new plays by Joyce Carol Oates, Steve Martin, Edward Allan Baker, John Guare and John Patrick Shanley, among many others. He has received two grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for his direction of new works, a OBIE Award for Outstanding Achievement off and off-off Broadway (as producer of the E.S.T. Marathon of One-Act Plays) and a Drama Desk Nomination for Best Revival of a Play (for the company of Horton Foote's "The Traveling Lady").

"Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth" will be presented in repertory with a number of other shows in Phoenix Theatre Ensemble's Spring Rep Festival. Notable among these is the New York premiere of "The Fool's Lear" by Randy Neale, performed by Grant Neale as The Fool and Craig Smith as Lear (May 5 to 25). The play follows the journey of the hapless king and his faithful servant as they step off the page of Shakespeare's folio and onto the hilarious and harrowing byways between the Bard's familiar scenes. The festival also includes 10:00 shows by Michael Lydon, Alexis Powell, The Petting Zoo and Chris Lowe and a daytime offering for young audiences, "Improv 4 Kids." For more information, visit www.phoenixtheatreensemble.org.

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