THE HERO Comes to the Metropolitan Playhouse, Now thru 3/30

THE HERO Comes to the Metropolitan Playhouse, Now thru 3/30

The "invaluable" Metropolitan Playhouse--2011 Obie Award winner--revives The Hero, by Gilbert Emery. Directed by Artistic Director Alex Roe at Metropolitan Playhouse: 220 E 4th Street. Previews begin tonight, March 1, with an opening slated for March 8. The show runs through March 30, 2014.

Tickets are $25 general; $20 students/seniors; $10 children, and may be purchased at www.metropolitanplayhouse.org/tickets or 800-838-3006.

In 1919, a prodigal son returns from the battlefields, apparently a hero of the Great War, and a family must grapple with an uneasy past and a far from certain future. Andy Lane is an upstanding, if uninteresting insurance salesman, barely able to make end meet for his wife, Hester, his mother, young son, and a Belgian war orphan they shelter. His brother Oswald ran away at sixteen with a forged check, and without his pregnant girlfriend, leaving his parents and Andy to clean up the mess. Now twelve years later, Os re-appears, a wounded veteran of the French Foreign Legion with an easy charm and a romantic story. The family and the entire town dress him in their own dreams and hopes, but when the man proves no more reliable than the reckless boy, a reckoning is demanded of everyone in the family. The Hero is a poignant play about the nature of sacrifice, the demands of ordinary life, and the need for heroes in a time that old orders have broken down.

Legendary producer Sam H. Harris tried out The Hero in April of 1921 at New York's Longacre Theater in a series of special matinée performances, and the play earned enough critical laurels that Harris gave it an open run at The Belmont in the fall of the same year. Lauded by critics and columnists, it was made into a 1923 film of the same name, and was the source for the 1946 film The Swell Guy. But the play closed after 80 performances in a generally depressed theatrical season. Harris later opined that The Hero's treatment of it's anti-hero was to blame for its relative lack of success, as people "always want to see the weak grow strong, the little fellow win, the under dog come out on top." Oswald does not come out on top, but as author Gilbert Emery knew, "the real problem of the play is Hester." The true drama is not "the hero's" story, but the stories of those whose lives he touches. Metropolitan's production brings out the confrontation of each character with him and herself, seeking direction in an unhinged world, and ultimately finding guidance and hope in one another.

Gilbert Emery (1875 - 1945) was was best known before the premiere of The Hero as popular and prolific author, Emery Pottle. (Both names are drawn from his full name: Gilbert Emery Bensley Pottle.) Hitherto a journalist, editor, short story writer, poet, and novelist, he wrote The Hero in 1920, shortly after returning from his service in France during World War I, where he was a first lieutenant in the US Army. Later plays, written into the '30's include Tarnish (1923), Episode (1925), Love in a Mist (1926), Housewarming (1932), and Far Away Houses (1933). In the same period, he found success as an actor, and appear in numerous plays and over 80 films from the '20's to the end of his life, ranging from Dracula's Daughter (1936) to A Farewell to Arms (1932) and That Hamilton Woman (1941).

Directed by Alex Roe, whose recent productions have included Self, The Henrietta, The Boss, The House of Mirth, and Uncle Tom's Cabin, the production stars: Becca Ballenger, Michael Fader (A Man's World), D.H. Johnson (Dodsworth), Emily Jon Mitchell, Casandera Lollar (Dodsworth), and Christian Rozakis. Set Design is by Alex Roe, Lighting Design by Samantha Davis and Patrick Mahaney, and Costumes by Sidney Fortner (Self, A Man's World, The Henrietta, The Detour, The Boss, and NYIT Award winner for The House of Mirth.) Jessica Kitrick stage manages.

Metropolitan Playhouse, now its 22nd season, devoted to Justice, explores America's theatrical heritage through forgotten plays of the past and new plays of American historical and cultural moment. Called an "indispensable East Village institution" by nytheatre.com and "invaluable" by Back Stage, Metropolitan has earned accolades from The New York Times, and received a 2011 OBIE Grant from The Village Voice for its ongoing productions that illuminate who we are by revealing where we have come from. Other awards include nominations for 2 NYIT awards in 2013 (for The Detour), 5 nominations in 2012 (The House of Mirth; Sidney Fortner winner for costumes), and 5 more in 2010 (The Return of Peter Grimm; Frank Anderson winner for lead actor). Recent productions include Self, A Man's World, The Henrietta, The Detour, The Boss, Both Your Houses, The House of Mirth, Deep Are the Roots, The Jazz Singer, From Rags to Riches, One-Third of a Nation, The Great Divide, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Drunkard, Dodsworth, as well as the Alphabet City and East Village Chronicles series.

Ticket Prices: $25 general admission, $20 students/seniors, and $10 children under 18. Preview admission prices are $15.00 for those over 18; $10 for children. To purchase tickets online visit www.metropolitanplayhouse.org/tickets, or call 1 800 838 3006.

Pictured: Michael Fader and Christian Rozakis. Photo by Alex Roe.

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