Odyssey Theatre & Evidence Room to Present PASSION PLAY, 1/25-3/16

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Odyssey Theatre & Evidence Room to Present PASSION PLAY, 1/25-3/16

Religion, politics and theater collide when Bart DeLorenzo directs the Los Angeles premiere of Passion Play by Tony and two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Sarah Ruhl, kicking off the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble's 45th Anniversary Season in a co-production with Evidence Room. Performances begin Jan. 25 at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A. and continue through March 16.

Inspired by the historic festivals where everyday citizens came together to elevate their communities by staging the death and resurrection of Christ, Ruhl's wildly ambitious triptych spins a funny and lusty tale of community spirit, individual morality and global politics. The three-part saga follows three acting troupes as they stage a classical passion play at different moments in history, transporting audiences first to 16th century England, where Queen Elizabeth threatens to shut down a small town's production; then to Nazi Germany, where Adolf Hitler's arrival at the famous Oberammergau Passion Play influences the lives of its cast; and finally to Spearfish, South Dakota in 1984, as a local production becomes a campaign stop for a famous actor-turned-President running for re-election. In each act, town members gather to commemorate the martyrdom of Christ, and the proceedings reflect Ruhl's trademark blending of philosophical query and light-spirited wit.

"I love plays that are about how theater affects our lives, and about how our lives are, in fact, a kind of theater," says DeLorenzo. "Sarah has a mad sense of humor, and in this magical play she draws the kind of imaginative connections that only theater can. It runs the gamut - from intimate scenes to crazy pageants to wild surrealism. It's very funny, but she is exploring some rich dark themes."

Sarah Ruhl began writing Passion Play while she was studying for her master's degree at Brown University, under the tutelage of Pulitzer winner and renowned writing teacher Paula Vogel. "I started writing this play after re-reading a childhood book which includes an account of Oberammergau in the early 1900s," Ruhl writes in an introductory note. "In this old fashioned narrative, the man who played Christ was actually so holy as to have become His living embodiment. The woman who played Mary was, in real life, just as pure as the Virgin. I started thinking, how would it shape or misshape a life to play a biblical role year after year? How are we scripted? Where is the line between authentic identity and performance? And is there, in fact, such a line?

Poetic and quirky, smart and profound, Passion Play was the winner of the Kentucky Center Fourth Forum Freedom Award and was named one of the "Ten Best Plays of 2008" by The New Yorker.

The Odyssey/Evidence Room co-production marks the Los Angeles premiere, and features Tobias Baker (previously for Evidence Room: Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, The Imperialists at the Club Cave Canem), Dorie Barton (Ivanov, Margot Veil for Evidence Room and Odyssey), Daniel Bess (Ivanov, Margot Veil), Bill Brochtrup (The Normal Heart for the Fountain, Bach at Leipzig for Odyssey Theatre Ensemble), Shannon Holt (Andromache, Homewrecker, She Stoops To Comedy for Evidence Room), Dylan Kenin (Edward Bond's Saved, Attempts on Her Life for Evidence Room), Christian Leffler (Saved, Ivanov), Jason Liska (Ivanov), Beth Mack (Ivanov), John Charles Meyer (bobrauschenbergamerica, directed by Bart DeLorenzo), John Prosky (The Crucible, Cousin Bette, for Antaeus), Brittany Slattery (Ivanov, Margot Veil) and Amanda Troop (A Splintered Soul and What the Butler Saw for Odyssey Theatre Ensemble).

Though Sarah Ruhl originally intended to be a poet, she fell in love with playwriting after studying with Vogel at Brown. Many of her plays mix the mundane with the mythical and supernatural, exploring the delicate line between life and death. She is known for her retellings and adaptations of classic stories and for bringing a clear feminist voice to the Contemporary Stage. Her other plays include In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play (Glickman Prize, 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist); The Clean House (Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist), Demeter in the City (nominated for nine NAACP awards); Eurydice; Dead Man's Cell Phone; Melancholy Play; Orlando; a new version of Chekhov's Three Sisters; and Stage Kiss which is slated to receive its New York premiere at Playwright's Horizons this March. Her plays have premiered at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway, and have been produced off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater, Playwrights Horizons and Second Stage. Regionally they've been seen at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Cornerstone Theater Company, Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth, Cincinnati Playhouse and the Piven Theatre Workshop in Chicago, as well as being produced at many other theaters across the country and around the world.

Bart DeLorenzo is the artistic director of the Evidence Room. At the Odyssey, he has directed Annapurna, Ivanov, Margo Veil and The Receptionist (Evidence Room co-productions), as well as Day Drinkers and A Number. Recent work: Fast Company at South Coast Rep, The Night Watcher at Studio Theatre, Coney Island Christmas at the Geffen Playhouse, Cymbeline at A Noise Within, Legacy of Light at the Cleveland Playhouse, King Lear with the Antaeus Company, and The Projectionist at the Kirk Douglas. Also: Doctor Cerberus, Dead Man's Cell Phone, and Shipwrecked! An Entertainment at South Coast Rep; Voice Lessons at the Zephyr; and bobrauschenbergamerica with TheSpyAnts. He is on the faculty at Calarts. He has received six LA Weekly Awards, three Backstage Garlands, three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, and he is the 2012 recipient of TCG's Alan Schneider Director Award. Upcoming: Death of the Author at the Geffen, and a remounting of the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble/Evidence Room production of Annapurna by The New Group in New York City.

Set design for Passion Play is by Frederica Nascimento, lighting design is by Michael Gend, original music and sound design is by John Ballinger, and costume design is by Raquel Barreto.

Performances of Passion Play take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., Jan. 25 through March 16. (On Sunday, Jan. 26 only, the performance will be at 5 p.m. with no 2 p.m. matinee.) Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Feb. 19 and March 5, and on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Feb. 13, Feb. 27 and March 13. Tickets are $25 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and $30 on Saturdays and Sundays, except for the opening night performance on Saturday, Jan. 25 which is $45 and includes a gala reception with the actors. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com.

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