THE UNMENTIONABLES Plays Stage West, Now thru 6/15
What happens when four people who firmly believe they are just trying to do good in the world crash into a wall of cultural differences? And what will they do when one of them appears to be in great danger? That's what they must figure out in Bruce Norris's searing dramatic comedy The Unmentionables, beginning a 5-week regional premiere run at Stage West tonight, May 15.
Dave is a young minister who is trying to bring education to a country in equatorial West Africa, where he has been joined by his disillusioned actress girlfriend Jane. Their school, which is also their living quarters, has been torched by person or persons unknown, and so they are the temporary guests of wealthy businessman Don and his slightly scatty wife Nancy. Dave's wish to question a teenager he considers a suspect in the arson is being thwarted by the formidable Auntie Mimi, who is in charge of the local government. Jane is trying, to no avail, to convince the local doctor that her fibromyalgia is a genuine condition. It's frustrating-but relatively benign.
But then Dave leaves to go for a walk, and doesn't return. With the instability of the political climate, they all begin to fear that his life might be in danger. It's suggested that the aforementioned teenager may be involved in Dave's disappearance, and that rigorous questioning might be in order. Can the Americans justify taking actions which run counter to their avowed beliefs in order to get information which may save Dave's life? Do the ends justify the means? Audiences will find much to think about in this engrossing and scathingly funny piece.
Bruce Norris is the author of The Infidel (2000), Purple Heart (2002), We All Went Down to Amsterdam (2003), The Pain and the Itch (2004), The Unmentionables (2006) and A Parallelogram (2010), all of which had their premieres at Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago. His most recent work, Domesticated, which was commissioned by Lincoln Center, premiered there in November 2013. Also in 2013, The Low Road premiered in London at the Royal Court. His play Clybourne Park won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2012, the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards (London) for Best Play, 2011 and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 2011. His work has also been seen at Playwrights Horizons (New York), Lookingglass Theatre (Chicago), Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles) Philadelphia Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre (Washington, D.C.) Staatstheater Mainz (Germany) and the Galway Festival (Ireland), among others. He is the recipient of the Steinberg Playwright Award (2009) and The Whiting Foundation Prize for Drama (2006) as well as two Joseph Jefferson Awards (Chicago) for Best New Work. He lives in New York.
The Unmentionables is directed by René Moreno, whose recent credits include direction of The Diviners for Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, and who directed Stage West's production of The Seafarer. It features Stage West Co-Producers Jim Covault and Dana Schultes as, respectively, Don and Jane. Wendy Welch, most recently seen as Sonia in the Uptown Players production of Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike, will play Don's wife Nancy, while Jake Buchanan, last at Stage West as Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew, will be seen as Dave. The pragmatic Auntie Mimi will be played by Natalie Wilson King, well-remembered for her role as Barbara Jordan in Voice of Good Hope, while Brandon Burrell, last at Stage West as Sir Lucius O'Trigger in The Rivals, will play The Doctor. Completing the cast are newcomers Nicholas Holden as the young suspect Etienne, and Michael Antione and Edwin Osaze as Soldiers.
The Unmentionables will preview tonight, May 15 at 7:30 and Friday, May 16 at 8:00, and will run through Sunday, June 15. Performance times will be Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with Sunday matinees at 3:00. The opening night reception will be Saturday, May 17. Note: no performance on Friday, May 23. Ticket prices range from $28 to $32, with discounts for the preview performance, and for students, seniors, and military. Food service is available 90 minutes prior to performances (reservations are necessary), and the Friday Prix Fixe special (dinner and show for $39) will be available beginning May 30. Reservations and information are available through the Box Office (817-784-9378), or on the website, www.stagewest.org. Note: this play contains strong language.