THE AMATEURS Comes to Olney Theatre Center
The Amateurs by Jordan Harrison and directed by Jason King Jones runs in Olney Theatre Center's Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, March 4 - April 5, 2020. The production is the fifth show in Olney Theatre's 2019-2020 season and the final show to perform in the Theatre Lab before it closes for renovations, scheduled to re-open in November 2020. OTC regulars Evan Casey (On the Town), James Konicek (Dial 'M' For Murder), Michael Russotto (Singin' in the Rain), Emily Townley (Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors) and Rachel Zampelli (The Crucible) are joined by Shakespeare Theatre Company veteran John Keabler (Hotspur in Henry IV, part I). Opening night is Saturday, March 7 at 7:45pm.
Harrison's futuristic Marjorie Prime was a Pulitzer Prize-finalist and a hit with OTC audiences during the 2015-16 season, prior to becoming an award-winning indie film (90% on Rotten Tomatoes) starring Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins and Geena Davis. In The Amateurs, which premiered at the Vineyard Theatre in 2018, he goes back (and forwards) in time. It's the 14th Century, the Black Death is ravaging Europe, and a traveling troupe of actors is performing the story of Noah. Everything is going about as well as can be expected until the actress playing Noah's Wife stops to ask why her character would get on the boat with all those smelly animals. And by the way, doesn't she deserve a name other than "Noah's Wife"? Heidi Schreck (What the Constitution Means to Me) who acted in an earlier incarnation of the work, is also credited with supplying additional material, including one key monologue during the show's second act, which introduces a troupe of modern actors in a meta-theatrical twist.
Writing in the New York Times, Jesse Green praised The Amateurs as, "seriously funny, by which I mean funny in a serious way: a good thing in a play that has so much on its mind. Among the themes that light up like fireflies here and there are the nature of sin, the purpose of art, the low status of actors and the low status of humans in general...And so it really is a thrilling, expansive, world-changing moment in a very sneaky play when Hollis, contemplating Mrs. Noah, first asks, What's my motivation?"
Director Jason King Jones comes to the piece with an extra bit of affection. As Olney Theatre's Senior Associate Artistic Director he also serves as the Artistic Director for National Players, the nation's longest running classical touring theatre troupe and a program of OTC. "As someone who casts and directs actors who go on the road, the characters in The Amateurs are very real to me. They are their own self-contained community. The plague presents a threat to everyone's individual survival, but almost as great is the threat to the troupe's survival -- along with the ever-present dilemma facing artists in every time of crisis, 'Does any of what I do really matter?'"
For the design team, the black box space will be in an alley configuration, with audience members on both sides of the action, intensifying the already intimate atmosphere of the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab. Rising to the challenge are Misha Kachman (Set Designer), Pei Lee (Costume Designer), Colin K. Bills (Lighting Designer) and Karin Graybash (Sound Designer). Ben Walsh is the stage manager.
For more information, please visit olneytheatre.org.