Westport Country Playhouse Stages WilliamsÂ' Suddenly Last Summer


In celebration of the Tennessee Williams centennial, Westport Country Playhouse will stage Tennessee Williams' poetic, sensual and evocative drama, "Suddenly Last Summer," directed by Playhouse associate artistic director David Kennedy, playing August 23 - September 10. It is the fourth of five productions in the historic theater's 80th year. Following each performance of "Suddenly Last Summer," post-show salons for patrons to discuss the play will be hosted in the Smilow Lounge on The Playhouse's mezzanine level.

"Originally excoriated by many who felt it perverse and sensational, ‘Suddenly Last Summer' duly found its place in the Williams canon as one of his most intriguing, absorbing and powerful plays," said Mark Lamos, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director.

Set in the New Orleans' Garden District in 1935, "Suddenly Last Summer" tells of a handsome poet who has died under mysterious circumstances. Only the beautiful young woman who was there knows the shocking truth of what happened. Will she tell her story no matter the consequences, or succumb to the pressure to protect the legacy of an influential and powerful family?

"I've wanted to direct this play forever. I find it so exciting," said David Kennedy, director. "Williams' uncanny blend of psychological insight, intense emotion, and grand theatricality put me in mind of the most towering Greek tragedies. As in those plays, a relatively simple story is an incitement to dive deep into the darkest and most confounding aspects of human existence, and emerge with a heightened sense of what it means to be alive."

The cast includes Susan Bennett (Westport Country Playhouse's "On the Verge," Broadway's "The House of Blue Leaves") as Miss Foxhill; Ryan Garbayo (The Public Theater, Chautauqua Theater Company) as George Holly; Annalee Jefferies (Hartford Stage's "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Night of the Iguana") as Mrs. Venable; Charlotte Maier (Broadway's "God of Carnage," "Inherit the Wind," "Dinner at Eight," "A Delicate Balance") as Mrs. Holly; Liv Rooth (Broadway's "Born Yesterday," "Is He Dead?") as Catharine Holly; Lee Aaron Rosen (Westport Country Playhouse's "Mary's Wedding," Broadway's "The Normal Heart") as Dr. Cukrowicz; and Tina Stafford (Kansas City Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse) as Sister Felicity.

Playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was one of America's most prolific and important playwrights. His prodigious output included "The Glass Menagerie" (New York Drama Critics Award 1944), "A Streetcar Named Desire" (New York Drama Critics Award, Pulitzer Prize 1947), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (New York Drama Critics Award, Pulitzer Prize 1955), "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1959), "Night of the Iguana" (1961) and "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" (1963).

Director David Kennedy, Westport Country Playhouse's associate artistic director since March 2009, has directed for The Playhouse "Beyond Therapy" and "Dinner with Friends." He previously served as Associate Artistic Director at Dallas Theater Center from 2004 to 2008, where his directing credits included "The Misanthrope," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "I Am My Own Wife," "The Violet Hour" and "Thom Pain (based on nothing)." He has also staged productions at the Wilma Theater, Clarence Brown Theatre Company, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, 78th Street Theatre Lab, Prospect Theater Company and Kitchen Dog Theater, among others. He is a founding artistic director of The Lunar Society in Toronto and Milkman Theatre Group in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was Artistic Director of The Summer Cabaret in New Haven. Kennedy is a former Phil Killian Fellow at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a Drama League Directing Fellow, and a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

The design and production team includes Narelle Sissons (Broadway's "All My Sons," Garland Award for "Sideman"), scenic design; Ilona Somogyi (Westport Country Playhouse's "Tick, Tick...Boom," "Scramble!," "Sedition," "The Voice of the Turtle"), costume design; Matthew Richards (Westport Country Playhouse's "Dinner with Friends"), lighting design; Fitz Patton (Broadway's "Brighton Beach Memoirs," "Broadway Bound"), sound design; B. H. Barry, fight director; Louis Colaianni, dialect coach; Matthew Melchiorre, production stage manager; Alison M. Roberts, assistant stage manager; and Janet Foster, C.S.A., casting.

The enhanced programming surrounding The Playhouse's production of "Suddenly Last Summer" includes a Sunday Symposium on Sunday, August 28, following the 3 p.m. matinee, with Annette J. Saddik, Ph.D., noted Tennessee Williams scholar, on the origins of "Suddenly Last Summer" and the playwright's fascination with the darker aspects of human experience. In addition, The Playhouse will stage a one-night-only performance by acclaimed actor Richard Thomas in "A Distant Country Called Youth," based on a collection of lively and evocative letters written by a young Tennessee Williams, on Monday, August 29, 7 p.m.

Board of Trustees Production Sponsor is Howard J. Aibel. Corporate Production Sponsor is Fidelity Investments. Corporate Production Partner is Sun Products. 2011 season sponsor is KPMG; 2011 media sponsors are Moffly Media and WSHU Public Radio Group.

Westport Country Playhouse's five-play 2011 season continues with "Twelfth Night, or What You Will," the beguiling comedy/romance, written by William Shakespeare and directed by Mark Lamos, October 11 - November 5.

Students and educators are eligible for 50% discounts. All Friday evening performances are $25 for patrons aged 35 and under. Groups of 10 or more save up to 30%. For group sales information call (203) 227-4177.

For more information or tickets, call the box office at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available online 24/7 at www.westportplayhouse.org. Stay connected to The Playhouse on Facebook (Westport Country Playhouse), follow on Twitter (@WCPlayhouse), view Playhouse videos on YouTube (WestportPlayhouse) or get an insider's peek on The Playhouse Blog (www.theplayhouseblog.org).

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