Padua Productions' VILLON Stars Kevin Weisman, Now thru 3/23
Murder, mayhem and poetry. Award-winning, visionary playwright Murray Mednick brings his unique sensibility to the hair-raising, sometimes violent, and often hilarious exploits of medieval poet François Villon in a world premiere production directed by the playwright. Villon opens tonight, Feb. 15, presented by Padua Productions in a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre.
Kevin Weisman (Kives on HBO's Hello Ladies, Marshall Flinkman on ABC's Alias) takes on the title role, heading an ensemble that includes Peggy A. Blow (In the Red and Brown Water at the Fountain, Mednick's The Fool and the Red Queen), Alana Dietze (BOB, God's Ear, Everything Will Be Different for The Echo Theater Co. Lascivious Something for Circle X), Troy Emmet Dunn (Rhinoceros, Agamemnon, Quartet, Trojan Women for City Garage), Geoffrey Dwyer (The Night of the Black Cat at Edgemar, Carnevil at SacRed Fools), Carl J. Johnson (The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later at GLCLA), Gray Palmer (Mednick's Out of the Blue, DaddyO Dies Well, The Fool and the Red Queen) and Christopher Rivas (Death of A Salesman at South Coast Rep, Helen at Getty Villa).
Employing his signature blend of poetic lyricism and vaudevillian wordplay, Mednick follows the 15th century poet and his gang of bandits, vagabond priests and swordsmen-courtiers through the treacherous forests of medieval France.
"Villon was a tremendous contradiction," says Mednick, who is careful to note that his play is an homage and a theater riff rather than a straight biography. "He was plucked out of the gutter and educated in the Church and at the University of Paris, only to become a bandit and a murderer. He was a Catholic scholar who could write great religious poetry alongside the bawdiest of ballads. He was pardoned by the King because his poetry was so magnificent."
"Villon was the equivalent of a medieval punk-rock star," adds Palmer, who plays Old Villon, the priest who adopted the young slum-dweller and whose surname the poet took as his own. "Villon's poems were full of the lingo of thieves and prostitutes. He was the original rapper, creating rhyming poetry out of street talk. When a collection of his poetry was finally published in 1489, it became an instant 'bestseller,' and it's been in print continuously ever since."
Set design for Villon is by Keith Mitchell; lighting design is by Matt Richter; costume design is by Adriana Lambarri; sound design is by John Zalewski; production stage manager is Kathleen Mae Meler; and Laura Hill produces for Padua Productions under the artistic direction of Guy Zimmerman.
Murray Mednick, a pioneer of the Off and Off-Off Broadway movements in the '60s and '70s and playwright-in-residence for Theater Genesis, wrote such ground-breaking works as The Hawk, The Hunter, Sand, Are You Lookin' and The Deer Kill (1970 OBIE Award for Outstanding Play), and was the founder/artistic director of the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival in Los Angeles from 1978 to 1995. He is the recipient of two Rockefeller Foundation grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Theatre Critics Association Best New Play citation (for Joe and Betty), a Career Achievement Award from the LA Weekly, an Ovation Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to Los Angeles Theater from the L.A. Stage Alliance, a Local Hero Award from BackStage West, and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's Margaret Harford Award for Sustained Excellence in Theater. "As Murray Mednick experiments with language... he is emblematic of a Los Angeles dramatic tradition in much the same way that Clifford Odets is identifiable with Gotham or David Mamet with Chicago," wrote Bob Verini in Variety.
Kevin Weisman (François Villon) is recognized around the world for his work aS Marshall Flinkman on the ABC series Alias, which ran for five seasons on ABC. Currently, Kevin can be seen as the wheelchair-bound lothario, Kives, in the HBO hit comedy Hello Ladies. Kevin has worked extensively in the theater, most recently at La Mirada Theatre for Performing Arts, where he appeared in Donald Margulies' Dinner with Friends and Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers. Last fall, Kevin starred in the West Coast premiere of Jamie Pachino's The Return to Morality at the Lex Theatre in Hollywood. A founding member of the award-winning Buffalo Nights Theatre Company, Kevin starred as Griffith J. Griffith in the award-winning Crazy Drunk at [Inside] the Ford; in the title role in Arthur Schnitzler's Anatol; in Jean Giraudoux's Apollo of Bellac (Garland Award for Production of the Year, 7 LA Weekly award nominations); J.B. by Archibald MacCleish; Suburban Motel; Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy; Oscar Wilde's Salome; and the West Coast premiere of Jonathan Marc Sherman's Sophistry. Additional theater credits include Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Greeks (1999 LA Weekly Production of the Year Award) and The Goldoni Trilogy at the Mark Taper Forum.
Padua Playwrights continues a writing, performance and teaching tradition that began Off-Off Broadway, was sustained and refined at the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop and Festival, and which prospered on the right balance between teaching a serious workshop and producing a serious festival of new work. Moving indoors a decade ago, Padua traded the immediacy of site-specific outdoor performances for the focus and finesse of an actual theater space. Continued though, is the exploration of the spoken word and its myriad connections to the possibility of real meaning.
Villon opens for press on Feb. 15 and continues through March 23. Performances take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. There will be two preview performances, on Thursday, Feb. 13 and Friday, Feb. 14 @ 8 p.m. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or go to www.PaduaPlaywrights.org.