Washington Stage Guild to Present BACK TO METHUSELAH, PART ONE, 2/20-3/16
The Washington Stage Guild continues its Season of Dreams with the start of a three-year dramatic extravaganza that will culminate in the company's 30th anniversary! BACK TO METHUSELAH, a cycle of plays by George Bernard Shaw that takes us from Adam and Eve meeting the Serpent in the Garden of Eden to a world 30,000 years in the future, is subtitled "a Metabiological Pentateuch."
Rarely produced because of its expansive proportions, the five parts of BACK TO METHUSELAH will be presented in three annual installments, with the first two, IN THE BEGINNING (BC 4004) and THE GOSPEL OF THE FAMILY BARNABAS (present day) this season. BACK TO METHUSELAH is a visionary, fantastic masterwork that examines humanity's failings, from moral to political, and posits "Creative Evolution" as the solution. The various parts-- whether fable, drawing room comedy, farce, or fantasy-- add up to what is considered one of the first theatrical works of science fiction.
"Shaw began this gargantuan masterpiece in the final days of World War I, and his disgust with the foolish waste of life and the childish rush to war drove him to a kind of frenzy of inspiration, as he produced this cycle of plays that depicts the need for us to evolve further if we are to survive. Of course, another way of looking at his story is that we need to stop behaving as if we never matured," says Artistic Director Bill Largess. "This year we start with his first two parts-- IN THE BEGINNING, a fable where Adam and Eve are inspired by The Serpent to invent birth and death, and Cain takes that a step further, and THE GOSPEL OF THE FAMILY BARNABAS, a comedy of manners in which a pair of scientists discover the solution to the world's problems and a pair of politicians scheme to use it to garner votes. Next season we'll present parts three and four, which take us 250 and 3000 years into the future, respectively, and in 2016, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our founding, we'll complete the cycle with the final part that occurs 30,000 years from now. BACK TO METHUSELAH premiered in New York in 1923, and was produced at the Shaw festival in 1969, but this will be only the third professional production in the Western Hemisphere."
Bill Largess will be at the directing helm of this multi-year project. A founding member of the Stage Guild and its Artistic Director since 2008, he has acted in or directed most of the Stage Guild's GBS offerings and was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for his portrayal of Jack Tanner/Don Juan in Shaw's Man & Superman.
Appearing in these first two offerings are many of the Stage Guild's Shavian "crew". Conrad Feininger will follow up his appearance in Simon Gray's Old Masters, portraying Cain and Joyce Burge. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Conrad's association with the Guild, with past performances in Molnar's A Tale of the Wolf (Helen Hayes nomination) and The Play's the Thing (twice), Shaw's Misalliance and Getting Married (Helen Hayes nomination), Camping With Henry and Tom (Goldwater award) and Graham Greene's The Potting Shed. Later this Spring Conrad will make his Florida debut, playing Gregory Soloman in Arthur Miller's The Price at Banyan Theatre in Sarasota. Another company founder, Laura Giannarelli, takes the stage as the Serpent and Frances Barnabas. Her most recent Stage Guild role was as Mrs. Pierce in Pygmalion last season. Laura has also directed with the company, most recently The Old Masters, earlier this season. She has acted around town for years, including Olney Theatre (Angel Street); Everyman Theatre (Doubt); Studio Theatre (The Long Christmas Ride Home); The Kennedy Center (Dreams in the Golden Country); Round House Theatre (A Prayer for Owen Meany) and numerous others.
Brit Herring, who recently appeared in Inventing Van Gogh at Stage Guild, will play Adam and the Reverend Haslam. Other Stage Guild credits include Red Herring and The Apple Cart. He has appeared Off-Broadway in the critically acclaimed revival of The Devil and Billy Markham by Shel Silverstein at Soho Playhouse, and in Paradise at The Lion Theatre on Theatre Row. As Eve and the Parlormaid, will be founding company member Lynn Steinmetz who recently appeared in T.S. Eliot's The Elder Statesman. Over the past 30-something years, she has performed at several venues in the Washington-Baltimore area, including Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth, Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre, Everyman Theatre, Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Institution, and others.