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Jean Cocteau Rep, Now 'The Exchange,' Presents New Plays

Downtown theater stalwart Jean Cocteau Repertory has shed its longtime home at the Bouwerie Lane Theatre, expanded its mission, and has been rechristened The Exchange.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Ari Edelson, Board Chairman Peter Finn, and Managing Director Jennifer Sanders, this newly formed company will make its debut this spring at The Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row. The company will present two new works that were recent hits in the UK: Realism by Anthony Neilson and Jump! by Lisa McGee. Both shows will be directed by Ari Edelson (The Attic).

Anthony Neilson's Realism guides audiences on a trip through one man's imaginative mind on an average day. Cabarets of crazy fantasies, poignant memories and childhood dreams shape a hilarious tragicomedy that leaps from the banal to the surreal and back again," state production notes.

"Set on New Year's Eve, Lisa McGee's Jump! tells the story of seven people whose unrelated lives suddenly collide at the strike of midnight -- to everyone's detriment. This cast of desperate, colorful characters includes novice hit men, would-be suicide-cases and glitzy gals geared up for a night they probably won't remember. Originally set in Belfast, playwright McGee updates the script for its US premiere, relocating the characters to Staten Island."

The casts of Realism and Jump! comprise a company of actors including Bree Elrod (My Name is Rachel Corrie), Jordan Gelber (Avenue Q), Ali Marsh, Stephen Plunkett, Kathryn Rossetter (45 Seconds from Broadway, Band in Berlin), Herbert Rubens (45 Seconds from Broadway, Band in Berlin), Tim Spears, Daniel Talbott (Marat/Sade at The Classical Theatre of Harlem), Sarah Grace Wilson (The Story) and Meredith Zinner, with sets by Antje Ellerman, sound by Bart Fasbender, lighting by Ben Stanton, costumes by Oana Botez-Ban, and casting by Vince Liebhart.

Anthony Neilson, along with Sarah Kane and Mark Ravenhill, is considered to be one of the major voices in contemporary British theatre today. He is the author of nearly two dozen plays including Dirty Laundry, Hoover Bag, The Wonderful World of Dissocia, The Lying Kind, Normal, and Penetrator, that have been produced at such prominent UK venues as The Royal Court, The Bush, National Theatre of Scotland, Royale Lyceum and The Edinburgh Festival. His play The Censor earned him both the Writers Guild and Time Out awards for Best Fringe Play 1997. In 2002 he was nominated for the Evening Standard Most Promising New Playwright Award for his play Stitching.

Lisa McGee studied Drama at Queens University Belfast. She was nominated by the National Theatre for inclusion in The 50, a prominent writing program with the BBC and the Royal Court Theatre. Her plays include The Young Man with the Cream Tarts (co-written with Declan Feenan) and How To Get To Heaven From Belfast. Jump! is currently being developed into a film by the Northern Ireland Film Commission. McGee is also working on a new TV series for the BBC.

"The Exchange is dedicated to finding ways to invite in the best storytellers from outside our theatrical fold.  The company acts as a primary launch pad for bold work, strong voices, resonance, cultural and political awareness.  By seeking to develop unconventional and multi-arts partnerships, The Exchange endeavors to create a broad community of theatre artists, providing a home for the public exploration of ideas and cultivation of new audiences."

Realism and Jump! run in rotating rep April 15 - May 20, 8pm Tuesday - Saturdays at 8pm, and matinees Saturday & Sunday at 3pm. The Kirk Theater is located in Theatre Row Studios (410 W. 42nd Street at 9th Avenue). Tickets are $20. For information or reservations call 212-279-4200 or visit www.ticketcentral.com.  For more information about the company, visit www.exchangenyc.org.

Photo of Realism and Jump! co-star Jordan Gelber by Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.

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