Theatre for a New Audience's THE KILLER, Starring Michael Shannon, Begins Tonight
Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) plays Berenger in Eugène Ionesco's The Killer in a production that also features Kristine Nielsen, Paul Sparks and Robert Stanton. The Killer is newly translated by Michael Feingold and is directed by Darko Tresnjak (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder).
Last produced Off-Broadway in 1960, The Killer is the final production of Theatre for a New Audience's inaugural season at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place. Previews begin tonight, May 17, at 7:30pm for an opening Thursday, May 29, and a scheduled run through Sunday, June 29. Single tickets are now on sale.
Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994) is one of the 20th century's most acclaimed playwrights. A Romanian who wrote mostly in French, Ionesco's family moved to Paris in 1911. His father left for Bucharest in 1916, ostensibly to fight in World War I, and never returned. In 1922, he used forged documents to obtain a divorce and custody. He then insisted that Eugène and his younger sister live with him and his new wife and learn Romanian. His father's cowardiceparticularly the rationales by which he accommodated the rise of Romanian fascism in the 1930sfigure in Ionesco's writings.
Ionesco returned to France in 1939 and settled in Paris after the war. Clownish mockery and sharp seriousness are characteristic of his work. He first burst onto the theatre scene in 1950 with The Bald Soprano and ultimately wrote 28 plays, as well as novels, short stories and essays.
The Killer (in French, Tueur sans gages) was written in 1957 and had its world premiere in Paris in 1959. It is the first of Ionesco's four plays featuring the hapless, inadvertently heroic Everyman-character Berenger (the other three are A Stroll in the Air, Exit the King and his most popular play, Rhinoceros).
In The Killer, Berenger discovers a "radiant city," a kind of utopia near his dismal urban home. It is a perpetually sunny, impeccable, clean place full of marvelous architecture and beautiful gardens. But there is one hitch: a serial murderer has been killing people for so long that the authorities have given up trying to catch him.
Jeffrey Horowitz, Founding Artistic Director of Theatre for a New Audience, explains, "Theatre for a New Audience produces major modern authors alongside Shakespeare. Michael Shannon, who played Berenger in 1998 at Chicago's A Red Orchid Theatre (co-founded by Mr. Shannon), introduced me to The Killer. Last season, Theatre for a New Audience produced Samuel Beckett's Fragments. Ionesco, like Beckett, writes about the comedy of human communication and characters unable to control their existence. Exploring the language and ideas of Ionesco after Beckett makes sense. And, Michael wanted to play Berenger again and was excited to work with director Darko Tresnjak in a new translation by Michael Feingold both of whom have long, fruitful relationships with Theatre for a New Audience."
" The Killer is a wildly imaginative and eclectic play, a symphony for actors," said director Darko Tresnjak. "It is funny, farcical, and frightening. I look forward to exploring it with our killer design team and an extraordinary acting company, headed by Michael Shannon, Kristine Nielsen, Paul Sparks and Robert Stanton."
About The Killer, Mr. Feingold says, "It's astonishing to me that this remarkable play has so rarely been produced in America -- and virtually never, since its original staging, in New York. Though it grows out of the sensibility of the 1950s, it seems to encapsulate so much of what is happening to the world in our time. As I worked on it, every line seemed to be a new revelation, every piece of Ionesco's highly personal and quirky imagery seemed also to carry political comment, and all of the play's deliciously dark humor had a deep tragic undertone."
Michael Shannon appears on stage, film and television. In 2012, he starred on Broadway in Grace. Additional theatre includes Uncle Vanya, Our Town, Mistakes Were Made, Bug and Killer Joe. He received an Academy Award nomination for his performance in Revolutionary Road and plays Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire. His noted films included Bug, Take Shelter, The Iceman and Man of Steel. Mr. Shannon is co-founder of Chicago's adventurous 20-year-old ensemble theatre company A Red Orchid Theatre.
Darko Tresnjak directed A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (most 2014 Tony nominations including Best Director), currently playing on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. He is the Artistic Director of Hartford Stage. Mr. Tresnjak staged Theatre for a New Audience's productions of All's Well That Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra and The Merchant of Venice with F. Murray Abraham, which transferred to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Mr. Tresnjak has directed at The Public Theater, Stratford Festival, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare, Chicago Shakespeare, Long Wharf, Goodspeed Musicals, Huntington Theater Company and Williamstown Theater Festival. His upcoming productions include Hamlet and Kiss Me Kate at Hartford Stage and The Ghosts of Versailles withPatti LuPone at L.A. Opera.
Michael Feingold, who served as chief theatre critic for The Village Voice from 1983 to 2013 and currently writes a monthly two-part essay for Theatermania.com under the title "Thinking About Theater," has also had an extensive career as a translator, adaptor and playwright. Best known for his versions of the Brecht-Weill works Happy End, Threepenny Opera and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Mr. Feingold has translated numerous works from the French, including Ionesco's The Chairs, which was given an acclaimed production by David Gordon and Valda Setterfield at London's Dance Umbrella and BAM's Next Wave Festival in 2004. Mr. Feingold's previous work for Theatre for a New Audience includes translations of Frisch's Andorra and De Filippo's Souls of Naples; he served as the company's dramaturg for three seasons, working on two Shakespeare productions with Darko Tresnjak.
The company includes Brendan Averett (Bartender/First Policeman), Stephanie Bunch (Dennie), Benjamin Cole (Ensemble), Liam Craig (The Bum/First Man/The Drunk), Eric Folks (Ensemble), Jonathan Hooks (Ensemble), Kathleen Longazel (Ensemble), Kristine Nielsen (Concierge/Ma Piper), Anastasia Olowin (Ensemble), Frank Paiva (Ensemble), Gregor Paslawsky (Second Old Man), Ryan Quinn (Second Man/Postman/The Killer), James Rees(Ensemble), Michael Shannon (Berenger), Noble Shropshire (First Old Man/Old Gent), Paul Sparks (Edward), Robert Stanton (The Architect), Gordon Tashjian (Second Policeman), Quinn Warren (Ensemble) and Ariel Zuckerman (Ensemble).
Scenery and costumes are by Suttirat Larlarb, lighting by Matthew Richards, and sound by Jane Shaw. Andrew Wadeis the vocal director, Jonathan Kalb is the dramaturg, and Cole Bonenberger is the production stage manager.
Theatre for a New Audience's New Deal Ticket Program is supported by The Macy's Foundation.