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Richard Ploetz's VERSAILLES to Play Theater for the New City, 2/20-3/9

"Versailles" by Richard Ploetz is a dark and winding tale of a 28-year old single mother and "party girl" fighting against desperate circumstances and dead-end relationships in a seedy North Florida community. Estranged from her family, her youth and beauty fading, she works as a pole dancer and tests her sexual powers on her boyfriend, her boss and her neighbors until a mysterious figure, Mr. Mason, appears, who may bring her deliverance or further entrap her. Her jagged story will be told February 20 to March 9 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., presented by Nedworks Inc. Ian Streicher directs.

The central character, Sharon, has been dealt a bad hand in life. After a rough childhood, she has managed to squeak by on her mantrap looks. Her house, going into foreclosure, bestrides an encroaching swamp in a development named Versailles, for which the play is named. At a girlie bar named The Golden Lady, she is the topliner but in perpetual fear of losing her gig. Between the demands of her job and her need to sexually appease her boss and her garage mechanic boyfriend, she has apparently lost track of her child. The upright Midwestern couple across the street find their marriage jeopardized as they, too, fall under Sharon's spell. Mr. Mason, an ex-cop and hunting buddy of her father, appears on the scene with the key to either Sharon's salvation or her doom.

The story dawned on playwright Richard Ploetz during the trial of Casey Marie Anthony for murder of her daughter in Orlando, FL, which suggested scattered elements of the plot. The characters of the play are totally imagined. Ploetz was not so much interested in that North Florida woman's guilt or innocence as how a woman in her situation, which was ugly and tragic by most standards, could try to make the best of it. His play imagines the collateral damage of her struggle to fight her way out of her morass. Its intent is to present Sharon as a sort of "reverse Everyman," whose situation is not unique in these economically crushing times, especially in areas of the country where there are few opportunities.

The style of the play is filmic, with short scenes and jarring movements. Rapid cuts propel us through a broken story. Overall, the playing is realistic with the exception of Mr. Mason, who represents the "conscience" of the play.

The actors are Elizabeth Bell, Ron Bopst, Eric Chase, Charise Greene (as Sharon), Drew Ledbetter, Charlie Moss and Nick Ruggeri. Set design is by Sotirios Livaditis. Costume design is by Roejandra Adams. Original music is by Rory Sullivan. Lighting design is by Liz Grudzinski.

Richard Ploetz (playwright) attended Yale Drama School and holds an MFA from the Columbia writing program. His plays have been presented through the years by WPA Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Theater Genesis, Ensemble Studio Theater, La MaMa and South Coast Repertory Theater (CA). Ploetz is also an active member of Emerging Artists Theatre. His recent productions include "Cezanne On a Clear Day" (Emerging Artists Theatre), "Old Love & The Letter" (Kraine Theater) and "Deceit" (Theater for the New City), all in 2013.

Ian Streicher (director) has helmed dozens of plays in NY and Chicago since 1982. His NY productions include "The Sensational Josephine Baker," which ran for twelve weeks Off Broadway presented by Emerging Artists Theatre, of which he is a long term member. He has collaborated with Richard Ploetz on a number of projects, notably "Old Flame." In Chicago, where he is Artistic Director of Rare Terra Theatre, he directed the world premiere of "A Beautiful Spell" by Greg Kalleres at The Royal George Theatre and the Midwest premiere of "Wrong Mountain" by David Hirson.

Photo by Jonathan Slaff

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