A Red Orchid Theatre's ABIGAILS' PARTY Extends Thru April 25

A Red Orchid Theatre Artistic Director Kirsten Fitzgerald announces the extension of Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party, directed by Shade Murray and featuring A Red Orchid Ensemble Members Kirsten Fitzgerald, Danny McCarthy, Mierka Girten and Larry Grimm, with Natalie West. The hit production now runs through April 25, 2010, at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells.

Abigail is having a party and none of us are invited, but do not miss the cocktail party just down the block... Beverly and Lawrence are having the "grown-ups" over and this party promises hilarity and horror the likes of which you can not imagine. The petty competition is fierce as social relationships are laid bare exposing the obsessions, prejudices, dreams and aspirations of the guests. A sort-of comedy of manners, Abigail's Party was developed through lengthy improvisations in which Mike Leigh and his actors explored characters and the realities of day-to-day life in all their beautiful, terrible glory.

"This season is about celebrating the Ensemble and the ongoing process that makes us A Red Orchid Theatre," says Artistic Director Kirsten Fitzgerald. "Not only does Mike Leigh's play offer the opportunity to have more than one or two Ensemble Members on stage together, it poses challenging questions to the creative team and our audiences; confronting the easy assumptions we so often make about relationships."

Director Shade Murray adds, "On the surface, Abigail's Party is pure British "cringe" comedy; you laugh as you recoil at the outrageous comments made by these ill-mannered folks and their complete lack of self-awareness. At the same time, it's a timely social commentary asking us to consider the strength of the connective tissue that holds us to our spouses, our friends and our neighbors."

Abigail's Party features A Red Orchid Ensemble Members Kirsten Fitzgerald, Mierka Girten, Larry Grimm and Danny McCarthy, with Natalie West.

The creative team includes Benno Nelson (Assistant Director), Dan Straton (Scenic Design), Samantha Szigeti (Lighting Design), Melissa Torchier (Costume Design), and Joe Court (Sound Design). S.G. Heller is the Stage Manager.

Mike Leigh (Playwright) is an award-winning screen-writer, director and playwright who was born in Salford, Lancashire, in 1943. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, at Camberwell and Central Art Schools and at the London Film School. He gained acting and directing experience with the Royal Shakespeare Company and through work on his first original play, Bleak Moments. Leigh began his career as a playwright and theatre director with Smelling A Rat (1989), It's A Great Big Shame, Greek Tragedy, Goose-Pimples (1982), Ecstasy (1989) and Abigail's Party (1979), the latter being revived on its 25th anniversary and nominated for the 2002 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival.
Leigh's most recent work for the stage is Two Thousand Years (2006). Leigh' television plays, which he both wrote and directed, include Nuts in May, Home Sweet Home, and Vera Drake. He is well-known for his films which do not begin with a script, but evolve from actors talking, improvising and creating characters. His multi-award winning films include All or Nothing (2002), Life is Sweet, Secrets and Lies (1997), Topsy Turvy (1999) and most recently Happy-Go-Lucky (2008).

Shade Murray (Director) is pleased to be back at A Red Orchid where he directed Kimberly Akimbo. Chicago credits include End Days at Next Theatre; The Chosen (Jeff Nomination, Director) and The Subject Was Roses at Writers' Theatre; Fatty Arbuckle... at Second City; R.U.R., Marathon '33 (Jeff and After Dark Awards, ensemble), Detective Story (Jeff Award, Production, Director, Ensemble), WRLS #5, and Our Country's Good at Strawdog; Stupid Kids (Jeff Nomination, Director), Some Explicit Polaroids, Santaland Diaries and Never Swim Alone at Roadworks; as well as productions at the MCA, Shattered Globe, About Face, Cobalt, Shakespeare's Motley Crew, Timberlake Playhouse and dance theatre in collaboration with MK and Birgitta Victorson. Shade is an MFA candidate in directing at Northwestern University and was recently named a finalist for the 2009 NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Directors. Upcoming: Good Soul of Szechuan (Strawdog).

Kirsten Fitzgerald (Beverly) is an Ensemble Member and the Artistic Director of A Red Orchid Theatre. She has been seen on her home stage in Pumpgirl (2009 Jeff Nomination: Actress in a Principal Role), Weapon of Mass Impact, The Sea Horse (2007 Jeff Award: Actress in a Principal Role), The Killer, 4 Murders, and more. Work on other Chicago Stages includes Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Apple Tree, Defiant, Goodman, Circle, National PastTime and Next, among others. Kirsten teaches acting at Columbia College and Acting Studio Chicago and continues to consult with Thresholds Theatre Arts Project; a project dedicated to showcasing the creative voices of individuals with serious mental illness.

Mierka Girten (Angela) is an AROT Ensemble Member and was most recently seen in Mistakes Were Made. Earlier AROT credits include With or Without Wings, Weapon of Mass Impact, The Meek and Kimberly Akimbo among others. Mierka is the founder of Mookie Jam, a foundation dedicated to assisting artists with Multiple Sclerosis.

Larry Grimm (Lawrence) is a founding Ensemble Member of A Red Orchid Theatre where he has been seen on stage in Pumpgirl, The Meek, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, Mr. Kolpert and more. He was also recently on stage at Piven Theatre in Two By Pinter and at Lookingglass Theatre in The Brothers Karamozov. Larry is the Director of Education at AROT and teaches acting at Chi Arts, Chicago's new high school for the arts.

Danny McCarthy (Tony) is an Ensemble Member of A Red Orchid where he was most recently seen on stage in Craig Wright's The Unseen. He has been seen on lots of Chicago stages including Northlight, Steppenwolf and Roadworks, among others. Film & TV credits include a regular role on Prison Break, and roles in the feature films The Express, Fred Clause, Flags of Our Fathers, Stranger Than Fiction, Alley Ball and more.

Natalie West (Susan) makes her AROT debut in Abigail's Party. Previous productions include Butcher of Baraboo, Nickel and Dimed, and Side Man (Steppenwolf), Man Who Came to Dinner (Steppenwolf and The Barbican in London), House and Garden (Goodman), How I Learned to Drive (Northlight), and God of Hell (Next). TV and film credits include a regular on Roseanne as Crystal, Poker House, Life Sentence and Bushwhacked. Natalie is a Member of Remains Theatre Ensemble.

Synopsis: A domestic cocktail party goes hilariously and horrifically awry exposing the obsessions, prejudices and petty competitiveness of the party-goers. A suburban comedy of manners and satire on the aspirations and tastes of the new middle class that emerged in Britain in the 1970s and ring oddly true today. The play, developed through lengthy improvisations in which Mike Leigh explored characters in all their beautiful, flawed glory, provides a tremendous opportunity for the entire creative team.

Dates: Regular Run: February 18, 2010 - March 28, 2010
Extended Run: Thursday, April 1 - Sunday, April 25, 2010

Schedule: Thurs: 8:00 p.m.
Fri: 8:00 p.m.
Sat: 8:00 p.m.
Sun: 3:00 p.m. (no performance on Easter Sunday, April 4)

Location: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Ave.

About A Red Orchid
Since 1993 A Red Orchid Theatre has been an artistic mainstay of the Chicago theatre community; known and praised for its powerful ensemble, creative design and its gripping, intimate productions. The resident Ensemble maintains the conviction that passionately committed theatre will draw passionately committed audiences, and the 2009-2010 subscription season promises to bring Ensemble and audience even closer together.
A Red Orchid Theatre is: Lance Baker, Dado, Jennifer Engstrom, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Joseph Fosco, Steve Haggard, Mierka Girten, Larry Grimm, Karen Kawa, Karen Kessler, Danny McCarthy, Brett Neveu, Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen, Doug Vickers, Tiffany Wilson and Craig Wright.
The 2009-2010 Season is dedicated in loving memory of, and with many thanks to, Donald Shannon, who has provided invaluable guidance and energy as an Advisory Board member since the beginning.


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