Gale Harold, Denise Crosby, Claudia Mason Star In ORPHEUS DESCENDING, 1/15-2/21
Gale Harold (Queer as Folk), Denise Crosby (Star Trek TNG), and cover girl-turned-actress Claudia Mason (Vogue, Elle, W, Cosmopolitan) head the cast of Tennessee Williams' rarely produced classic, Orpheus Descending. Rounding out the ensemble are stage and screen veterans Robert E. Beckwith, Curtis C., Francesca Casale, John Gleeson Connolly, Kelly Ebsary, Andy Forrest, Sheila Shaw and Geoffrey Wade. Independent filmmaker Lou Pepe (Lost in La Mancha) directs a six-week run, January 15 through February 21, at Theatre/Theater in Los Angeles.
Tennessee Williams' modern version of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is set in the American South of repressed desires. Guitar-playing drifter Val Xavier (Harold) arrives in a small town looking for work and the opportunity to renounce his wild ways, where he meets Lady Torrance (Crosby), a woman with a tragic past who longs for rebirth. Known as one of Williams' darker and more complex plays, Orpheus Descending explores the power of passion, art, and imagination to redeem life and return it to meaning.
"I've always been interested in work that addresses the creative process and the struggle of the artist," says Pepe, best known for his documentary films that deal with similar themes: Lost in La Mancha, The Hamster Factor, and Malkovich's Mail. "Here, the artist is an outsider who has descended into a small Southern town rife with gossip, intolerance, and racism."
Pepe feels a close personal connection to Williams' play, as both an artist and a descendent of Italian immigrants. "The story is haunted by the ghost of Papa Romano," he continues. "Lady's father was an Italian immigrant bootlegger murdered by the KKK for selling liquor to a black man. Romano was also an artist - he played mandolin and sang. His death is one of many instances of violence in the play against anyone who dares to speak out in favor of equality and justice - a responsibility that Williams ascribes to the artist."
The play utilizes Williams' signature selection of secondary characters to the greatest degree, such as outsider/social outcast Carol Cutrere (Mason) and the various small town gossips who comment on the action, making up a Greek Chorus.
Orpheus Descending was a play that Williams labored over for more than seventeen years. The earliest version, callEd Battle of Angels, opened as Williams' first Broadway production in 1940 when he was just 29. It was almost universally condemned by critics. Williams refused to give up, rewriting it five times and finally reshaping it as a modern version of the Greek legend. "Why have I stuck so stubbornly to this play?" Williams wrote. "Well nothing is more precious to anybody than the emotional record of his youth, and you will find the trail of my sleeve-worn heart in this completed play that I now call Orpheus Descending. About 75% of it is new writing, but what is more important, I believe that I have finally managed to say in it what I wanted to say, and I feel that it now has in it a sort of emotional bridge between my early years and my present state of existence as a playwright."
Orpheus Descending opened on Broadway in 1957 with Maureen Stapleton and Cliff Robertson. In 1959, Williams and Meade Roberts turned the script into the film The Fugitive Kind, starring Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, JoAnne Woodward and Maureen Stapleton.
Lou Pepe is an independent filmmaker and screenwriter who divides his time between documentary and fiction projects. He has directed two feature documentaries about film director Terry Gilliam: The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of 12 Monkeys (1996); and Lost in La Mancha (2002), the first-ever cinema verite chronicle of the collapse of a major motion picture - in this case, Gilliam's short-lived screen adaptation of Don Quixote. Lost in La Mancha received the Evening Standard's Peter Sellers Award for Best Comedy in 2003 and was nominated for a European Film Award for "Best Documentary." Pepe's AMC documentary Malkovich's Mail (2003) furthered his exploration of artistic characters and the creative process by profiling a group of aspiring screenwriters who had solicited John Malkovich's company with bizarre pitch letters. Pepe's fiction work includes the feature film Brothers of the Head, a Gothic fever-dream about Siamese twins who fronted a 1970s punk band (2006, Winner, Michael Powell Award for Best New British Feature, Edinburgh Film Festival); and Moments of Doubt (1998), a trilogy of dramatic short films, which won the Best Short Film Award at the 1999 Hamptons International Film Festival.
Gale Harold (Valentine Xavier)'s stage credits include Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer for the Roundabout Theatre Company at the Laura Pels Theatre, Austin Pendelton's Uncle Bob at the Soho Playhouse, Gillian Plowman's Me And My Friend at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, and as a member of A Noise Within Repertory Company. Gale was the lead character, Brian Kinney, on Showtime's remake of the UK show, Queer as Folk. He played Wyatt Earp on Deadwood for HBO. He has also appeared on Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, The Unit, and Law and Order SVU. Film credits include Wake, Particles of Truth, Rhinoceros Eyes, Fathers and Sons, The Unseen, and Falling For Grace. Gale was the associate producer of Scott Walker: 30TH CENTURY MAN, directed by Stephen Kijak.
Denise Crosby (Lady Torrance) appeared on the stage in Last Summer at Bluefish Cove directed by Dorothy Lyman (Ovation nomination); in the title role, as Tamara de Lempicka, in Tamara; in Stops Along The Way, directed by Richard Dreyfuss; and in two critically acclaimed plays directed by legendary acting teacher Larry Moss: Epitaph For George Dillon by John Osborne in New York, and Beggars in the House of Plenty by John Patrick Shanley at Theatre/Theater in Los Angeles. On television, Denise created the role of Lt. Tasha Yar in Star Trek, The Next Generation, later returning to play Tasha's daughter Sela. She co-starred with Fisher Stevens and Jennifer Tilly in the Fox series, Key West. Other TV credits: recurring roles on NYPD Blue, The X Files, Mad Men, and Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman; and guest starring in numerous TV series, most recently, Dexter, Crossing Jordan, and Bones. Her films include Pet Sematary, 48 Hours, The Man Who Loved Women, Skin Deep, Jackie Brown, Deep Impact; and Indie films such as the Sundance Film Festival Winner Miracle Mile and The Red Shoe Diaries directed by Zalman King.
Claudia Mason (Carol Cutrere), discovered at age 13 by a scout from Elite Modeling Agency, went on to become one of the world's top models for Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Versace, Armani, Gucci, Valentino, Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein, gracing the covers of such magazines as Vogue, W, Mademoiselle, Elle and Cosmopolitan. She left modeling to concentrate on acting, appearing Off Broadway in Boxing Day Parade at the Intar; in The Glass Menagerie at Gramercy Arts; and in The Years and Beyond Therapy at HB Foundation Theatre. After moving to Los Angeles, Claudia hosted MTV's fashion special, Fashionably Loud, and was featured in Woody Allen's film Celebrity, subsequently landing roles in the independent films Schmoozer, Discovering Daisy, LAX, Lime Salted Love, and a leading role in the stylish psychological thriller Outpatient, which received multiple accolades on the festival circuit including Best Picture awards at Telluride; Stony Brook, DC Independent, Nodance, Palm Springs, and the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. She also starred in the critically acclaimed world premiere of Two Ships Passing at the Pan Andreas Theatre, for which she was named Outstanding Female Actor in a Lead Role by Reviewplays.com.
Robert E. Beckwith (Dog Hamma) has lived and worked in Los Angeles for the past seventeen years as an actor, voice over artist, and photographer. Among his acting credits is the recurring portrayal of the demented dermatologist Dr. Johnson on the TV show Scrubs.
Curtis C. (Conjure Man), a member of NoHoAce at the NoHo Arts Center, has been seen there in Bush Is Bad 2, Departures, Sanity, Lizard, and Dorian; at International City Theatre in Once On This Island and Raisin; at Pacific Resident Theatre in Orpheus Descending and Of Mice and Men; at the Colony Theatre in Toys in the Attic; at the Getty Villa in Tug of War; and at the Pasadena Playhouse in Of Mice and Men. He has performed in all but three states in National Tours and was a resident company member at several regional theaters, appearing in Driving Miss Daisy, Pippen, The Piano Lesson, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Big River to name a few.
Francesca Casale (Vee Talbott) New York theater: leading roles in The Three Sisters; The Stronger, Six Characters In Search Of An Author, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, and The House Of Bernarda Alba; L.A.: lead roles in David's Mother, Waiting for the Parade, The Only Game in Town, Daughters, Lost in Yonkers, Other People's Money (Colony Theatre); Light Up the Sky, Translations (Actor's Co-op); Crimes of the Heart (Promenade Playhouse); A Nervous Smile (ICT); The Fastest Clock in the Universe (Celebration Theatre); The House of Blue Leaves; (Matrix Theatre); Beggars in the House of Plenty, directed by Larry Moss (Theatre/Theater).
John Gleeson Connolly (Pee Wee Binnings) was last seen on stage in The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway at the American Airlines Theater. Other NYC credits include plays at the Present Company Theatorium, Teatro Latea, and the Judith Anderson. In Chicago he appeared at Steppenwolf Theatre in Fahrenheit 451 and in Woyczeck with European Rep. TV and Film credits include ALI, xXx, State of the Union, Sex and the City, 24, The Unit, ER, Law and Order, and an upcoming guest starring role on Numb3rs.
Kelly Ebsary (Dolly Hamma), a theater actress and opera singer, recently arrived from New York. What's Eating Kate?, a multi-media performance art piece written and performed by her, at REDCAT; the film Hollywood, je t'aime; a recurring role on Pushing Daisies. East Coast credits: Tony 'n Tina's Wedding (Artificial Intelligence), War and Peace (Metropolitan Opera), Redhead (Goodspeed Opera House), Gotham (The Goodspeed Opera House), Fanny Hill (Papermill Playhouse@The Ford Center), The Mikado (Weston Playhouse), Iolanthe (New York City Center), When You Coming Back Red Ryder? (Polaris Theatre), Laundry and Bourbon, directed by Charles Nelson Reilly (Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre).
Andy Forrest (Sheriff Talbott) costars in the independent film Life, Death and Mini-Golf; the Sundance film Forgiving the Franklins; the award winning Kevin Tenney horror film, Brain Dead; and the upcoming indie comedy The Lempke Brothers. He was in the pilots Improv High, Elect Me and Chubby Chaser, and has appeared in numerous TV shows including a recurring role on NBC's Parks and Recreation. He performs improv at The Groundlings, IO west, the HotHouse, Comedy Store and LA Connection.
Sheila Shaw (Beulah) L.A. theater credits: Prisoner of Second Avenue (Beverly Hills Playhouse), Texmas (Third Stage), David Rambo's There's No Place Like House (Matrix Theatre), Justin Tanner's Space Therapy (Zephyr), All My Sons (LATC), and she is the recipient of an LA Weekly Award for her role in Verdigris (Theater West). Television credits include a recurring role on Mad Men as Jeannie Vogel, guest stars on Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Bones. Films include Pineapple Express, Erin Brockovich and Bruce Almighty.
Geoffrey Wade (Jabe Torrance) Broadway credits: Translations and An American Daughter; Off-Broadway: Twelve Dreams, Golden Child, Private Jokes, Public Places; the National Tour of Crazy for You; New England tours of Dancing at Lughnasa, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, As You Like It; Extensive regional work includes the title role in the world premiere of Lincoln: On the Altar of Freedom; seasons at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and The Rep Theatre of St. Louis; Center Stage, GeVa, the Guthrie, Great Lakes Shakespeare; Vermont's Weston Playhouse; National tours of Top Secret and The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial for L.A. Theatre Works; in L.A.: The Man Who Had All The Luck; Mercadet; Heathen Valley; Mother Courage; Tonight At 8:30. He is member of the Antaeus Company.
Ginger Perkins (Producer) has produced theater, music, dance and art exhibits for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for twenty-five years ("Best of the Fringe" and "Fringe First" awards); directed and produced theater across the US and in Europe; and co-wrote three plays. Most recently she produced the critically acclaimed Beggars in the House of Plenty at Theatre/Theater and Bouncers at The Lost Studio (LA Weekly nomination, Best Ensemble). Ginger produced the films Children on Their Birthdays and The Game of Their Lives; and co-produced films Baby-Luv and All Tied Up.
Set Design is by David Mauer; Production Stage Manager is Jericha Griffin; Ginger Perkins, Frantic Redhead Productions produces.
Orpheus Descending runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, January 15 through February 21. General admission is $25. Theatre/Theater is located at 5041 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90019 (two blocks west of La Brea, ample street parking available), For reservations and information, call (800) 838-3006 or go to www.BrownPaperTickets.com/event/92508 .