Romanian-French Playwright Matei Visniec's OLD CLOWN WANTED Makes West Coast Premiere

Romanian-French Playwright Matei Visniec's OLD CLOWN WANTED Makes West Coast Premiere

Inspired by a 1970 Federico Fellini film, three aging clowns compete for a job in an absurdly comic look at man's fear of uselessness in society. Odyssey Theatre Ensemble presents the West Coast premiere of Old Clown Wanted by Romanian-French playwright Matei Visniec in a new translation from the French by Jeremy Lawrence. Romanian-born Florinel Fatulescu directs for a Sept. 22 opening, with performances continuing through Nov. 4 at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A.

Theater and circus arts are intertwined in an absurdist, cynical, tender and very funny look at aging. Alan Abelew, José A. Garcia andBeth Hogan star as Niccolo, Filippo and Peppina, three elderly, washed up circus clowns who run into one another at an audition for a "small part for old clown." As they wait for a casting director who never arrives, they begin to reminisce - but their camaraderie only carries them so far before competition for the job takes over.

"This is a special work by a brilliant writer who is little-known in the U.S.," says Odyssey Theatre artistic director Ron Sossi. "It's reminiscent of everything from Beckett'sWaiting for Godot to Sartre's No Exit, but with a huge dash of comedy and clowning thrown in. The Odyssey has always been committed to producing plays from other countries, and we are lucky to have a wonderful Romanian director available. Florinel was especially excited after seeing Alan and Beth perform together in our production of Beckett 5. These two Odyssey regulars, coupled with newcomer José A. Garcia, are a magnificent combination."

The creative team for Old Clown Wanted includes set designer Jeff Rack, lighting designerBosco Flanagan, sound designer John Zalewski; costume designer Amanda Martin, prop master Josh La Cour and clowning consultant John Achorn. The assistant director is Rodica Fatulescu, and Ron Sossi produces for Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

Matei Visniec is a Romanian-French playwright, poet and journalist living in Paris. He is internationally known, especially for his writings in the French language. He graduated in 1980 from the History and Philosophy Faculty of the University of Bucharest. Between 1977 and 1987 he wrote eight full-length plays, about 20 short plays, and some screenplays - but all were turned down by the censors. In 1987 he was invited to France by a literary foundation, where he asked for political asylum. Between August 1988 and October 1989 he lived in London, where he worked for the Romanian section of the BBC. After settling down in France, he has been writing mostly in French, and has received French citizenship. After the fall of communism in Romania, in 1989, Vi?niec became one of the most performed playwrights in the country. In 1996 the National Theatre of Timisoara organized a Matei Vi?niec Festival with 12 companies presenting his plays. His international audience as a playwright started in 1992, with the playHorses at the Windows performed in France, and Old Clown Wanted at the "Bonner Biennale." Since then, Visniec has had more than 20 plays performed in France (Théâtre Guichet Montparnasse, Studio des Champs-Elysées, Théâtre du Rond-Point des Champs Elysées - Paris, Théâtre de l'Utopie - La Rochelle, Compagnie Pli Urgent - Lyon, Théâtre Le Jodel - Avignon, Théâtre de Lenche and Théâtre de la Minoterie - Marseille, Compagnie Nice-Théâtre Vivant - Nice, etc.). Old Clown Wanted has been performed in France, Germany, the U.S., Denmark, Austria, Poland, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Brazil, Romania, Moldavia and Georgia. Visniec currently works as a journalist at Radio France Internationale.

One of the premier directors of his native Romania, Florinel Fatulescu has won numerous theater awards for his daring and innovative style. Since 1987, when he moved to Los Angeles, he has directed critically acclaimed productions including The Suicide by Russian playwright Nikolai Erdman (Drama-Logue Award for direction); The Dragon by Evgeny Schwartz;Christopher Columbus by Michel De Ghelderode (Drama-Logue Award for direction); The Emigrants by S?awomir Mro?ek; The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni; The Cervantes Project, Fatulescu's own adaptation of two of the 17th century writer's "interludes"; Three Sistersby Anton Chekhov; and The Devils, an adaptation by Elizabeth Egloff of Dostoevsky's novel. He has directed plays by Ionesco including The Chairs (Drama-Logue Award for direction), The Lesson (LA Weekly award for best comedy direction) and Jack or the Submission, which he recently directed again in Romania. In 1993 he presented Stages Theatre Center's production ofDon't Blame the Bedouins by René-Daniel Dubois at the International Festival of Contemporary Theater in Brasov, Romania, for which he received the award for best direction. In spring, 2000 he received a grant from Étant donnés to direct the world premiere of How To Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients by Matei Visniec for Open Fist Theatre Company. That production was subsequently remounted in New York City as part of the N.Y. Public and French National Libraries' joint exhibition on utopian societies. He directed it again for the 2006 Edinburgh Festival, and once more, recently, at the National Theatre in Romania. Other French plays directed in Los Angeles include Visniec's Woman As Battlefield and The Chekhov Machine; Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure by Splendide (in French); Talk Show from Hell by Jean-Noel Fenwick; Perchance to Dream by Jean-Claude Grumberg; and Diablogues by Roland Dubillard. He directed Tennessee Williams' A House Not Meant to Stand at Teatrul Mic in Bucharest.

The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble was founded in 1969 when Ron Sossi decided to demonstrate that experiment-oriented theater could have populist appeal and be fiscally solvent while maintaining the highest artistic standards. Wildly successful and innovative productions such asThe Serpent and Brecht's The Threepenny Opera immediately gained the Odyssey its reputation for producing dangerous, magical and experimental work. More recent successes include Conor McPherson's relentlessly dark and funny new version of The Dance of Death by August Strindberg; Beckett5, a quintet of darkly humorous, seldom-seen short plays by Samuel Beckett;Sliding into Hades, created by the Odyssey's KOAN unit and recipient of multiple LA Weeklyawards including "Production of the Year," "Best New Play" and Best Director (Sossi); and Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga's Way To Heaven. Now celebrating its 49th season, OTE continues to explore, produce and present works on the forefront of contemporary theater art in its three-theater complex in West Los Angeles.

Performances of Old Clown Wanted take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. andSundays at 2 p.m. from Sept. 22 through Nov. 4. On Sunday, Sept. 23 only, the performance will be at 5 p.m. with no 2 p.m. matinee. Additional weeknight performances are scheduled onWednesday, Oct. 3; Wednesday, Oct. 24; and Thursday, Nov. 1, all at 8 p.m. Talkbacks with the cast follow the performances on Wednesday, Oct. 3; Friday, Oct. 19; and Thursday, Nov. 1. Tickets range from $32 to $37; there will be two "Tix for $10" performances, on Saturday,Sept. 29 and Wednesday, Oct. 24. Friday, Oct. 19 is "College Night" and includes a pre-performance student reception with themed catering as well as a post-performance discussion:$10 with valid student ID (use promo code COLLEGE). The third Friday of every month iswine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show. Additional discounted tickets are available at select performances for seniors, students and patrons under 30; call theater for details.

The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.

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