Vs. Theatre Company presents the Los Angeles premiere of Neil Labute's The Mercy Seat at [Inside] the Ford

Vs. Theatre Company presents the Los Angeles premiere of Neil Labute's The Mercy Seat at [Inside] the Ford

LOS ANGELES - February, 2011 - What if you were suddenly faced with the now-or-never chance to leave your spouse for your lover, no messy strings attached? Would you take it? Michelle Clunie (Queer as Folk) and Vs. Theatre Company artistic director Johnny Clark star in the Los Angeles premiere of The Mercy Seat, Neil LaBute's caustically funny examination of opportunism in the wake of tragedy. Ron Klier directs a six-week run, opening March 19 at [Inside] the Ford. Pay-what-you-can previews take place on March 17 and 18.

Set on September 12, 2001, less than twenty-four hours after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, The Mercy Seat introduces us to lovers Ben and Abby. Ben was supposed to have been working in the Twin Towers on that fateful day, but was playing hooky with Abby, his mistress and boss. Suddenly the two see a new possibility for their future that didn't exist just a day earlier. Will Ben let his family know he's alive?

"Although set against the backdrop of September 11, the play is timeless - a testament to the mess love can make of our lives," explains Klier. "Even in a time of national tragedy, life goes on. We proceed, preoccupied first and foremost with ourselves, with our needs and wants."

"I am trying to examine the ‘ground zero' of our lives...the painful, simplistic warfare we often wage on the hearts of those we profess to love," wrote LaBute in his introduction.

The Mercy Seat premiered at New York's Manhattan Class Company in 2002, directed by LaBute and starring Liev Schreiber and Sigourney Weaver. Newsday called it, "uncomfortable yet fascinating... provocative... sharp, compelling and more than a little chilling," while Timeout found it to be "sharply funny and incisive." In The New York Times, Ben Brantley compared The Mercy Seat to Strindberg's Dance of Death and Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? "in which men and women lock in vicious sexual combat."

Recently named "one of the top theater companies of the last decade" by the LA Weekly, Vs. Theatre Company strives to produce thought-provoking theater that simultaneously challenges and entertains its audience. Focusing on Los Angeles premieres, Vs. has produced or co-produced major contemporary playwrights including John Patrick Shanley, Stephen Adly Guirgis, John Kolvenbach, and Adam Rapp among others. Vs.' co-production of In Arabia We'd All Be Kings with The Elephant Theatre Company was named Best Production by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle in 2008. Vs.' follow up production, On An Average Day, which was produced in Los Angeles and Chicago, received Critic's Choice in both the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. It won or was nominated for several awards and is slated for an off-Broadway run in Fall, 2011.

Ron Klier directed Vs.' most recent production, Blackbird by Adam Rapp which was nominated for three Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle and three LA Weekly Awards, and was named one of LA Weekly's Ten Best Productions of 2009. Other directing credits include the West Coast premiere of Bekah Brunstetter's Happy Birthday/I'm Dead at the Elephant Theatre; the West Coast premiere of Brett Neveu's Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing at the Hayworth Theatre; and John Kolvenbach's On An Average Day for Vs. in Los Angeles and in Chicago. Writer-director credits include: Last Chance Gas, a part of the critically acclaimed Car Plays; Tranny for Little Bird Productions; Battleship for Moving Arts; and Waste of Shame for Vs. Ron's plays Pigs in Zen and Potatoes have received productions at the Generic Theatre in Virginia, the Gorilla Theatre in Kansas City and Moving Arts in Los Angeles. His short play The Straightenerouter received a production as part of the 2008 Abbie Hoffman Died For Your Sins Theatre Festival in Chicago and again in 2008 in Chicago as part of Wicker Park Nights at the Room Opera. His plays Dirt and Gender Studies recently received productions as a part of the Elephant Theatre's Love Bites, Version 8.0 and at the Whitefire Theatre. Ron is the literary director of the Vs. Theatre Company.
Johnny Clark (Ben) is the co-founder and artistic director of Vs. Theatre Company. Prior Vs. acting credits include The Credeaux Canvas; Modern Dance for Beginners; Navy Pier; Beggars in the House of Plenty; Waste of Shame; Eric LaRue; On An Average Day; Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing; and Blackbird for which he received a Best Actor nomination from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for his performance as "Baylis." Other favorite stage credits: Death of A Salesman (Odyssey Theatre); Never Swim Alone (West Coast Ensemble); and ChicaGo Productions of Life and Limb; Brilliant Traces; and A Hatful of Rain. Johnny co-wrote, produced and starred in the Rhode Island Film Festival first prize-winning film Liars Club, which received a limited theatrical release.

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Amber Cassell From a very early age, Amber Romina Cassell always knew that she did not want to be a writer. While attending film school at the University of Southern California, however, she volunteered as a critic for the school newspaper in order to see all the plays and screenings around town and the rest, as they say, is history. A devoted lover of musical theater, Amber has had the immense pleasure of covering some of Los Angeles' most prominent theatrical events and has conducted in-depth interviews with some of Broadway's greatest talents and strives everyday to help promote and encourage the LA theater scene.

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