Vs. Theatre Company presents Los Angeles premiere of Neil Labute's The Mercy Seat at [Inside] the Ford

What if you were suddenly faced with the now-or-never chance to leave your spouse for your lover, no messy strings attached? Would you take it? Michelle Clunie (Queer as Folk) and Vs. Theatre Company artistic director Johnny Clark star in the Los Angeles premiere of The Mercy Seat, Neil LaBute's caustically funny examination of opportunism in the wake of tragedy. Ron Klier directs a six-week run, opening March 19 at [Inside] the Ford. 

Set on September 12, 2001, less than twenty-four hours after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, The Mercy Seat introduces us to lovers Ben and Abby. Ben was supposed to have been working in the Twin Towers on that fateful day, but was playing hooky with Abby, his mistress and boss. Suddenly the two see a new possibility for their future that didn't exist just a day earlier. Will Ben let his family know he's alive?

"Although set against the backdrop of September 11, the play is timeless - a testament to the mess love can make of our lives," explains Klier. "Even in a time of national tragedy, life goes on. We proceed, preoccupied first and foremost with ourselves, with our needs and wants."

"I am trying to examine the ‘ground zero' of our lives...the painful, simplistic warfare we often wage on the hearts of those we profess to love," wrote LaBute in his introduction.

The Mercy Seat premiered at New York's Manhattan Class Company in 2002, directed by LaBute and starring Liev Schreiber and Sigourney Weaver. Newsday called it, "uncomfortable yet fascinating... provocative... sharp, compelling and more than a little chilling," while Timeout found it to be "sharply funny and incisive." In The New York Times, Ben Brantley compared The Mercy Seat to Strindberg's Dance of Death and Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? "in which men and women lock in vicious sexual combat."

Recently named "one of the top theater companies of the last decade" by the LA Weekly, Vs. Theatre Company strives to produce thought-provoking theater that simultaneously challenges and entertains its audience. Focusing on Los Angeles premieres, Vs. has produced or co-produced major contemporary playwrights including John Patrick Shanley, Stephen Adly Guirgis, John Kolvenbach, and Adam Rapp among others. Vs.' co-production of In Arabia We'd All Be Kings with The Elephant Theatre Company was named Best Production by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle in 2008. Vs.' follow up production, On An Average Day, which was produced in Los Angeles and Chicago, received Critic's Choice in both the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. It won or was nominated for several awards and is slated for an off-Broadway run in Fall, 2011.

Ron Klier directed Vs.' most recent production, Blackbird by Adam Rapp which was nominated for three Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle and three LA Weekly Awards, and was named one of LA Weekly's Ten Best Productions of 2009. Other directing credits include the West Coast premiere of Bekah Brunstetter's Happy Birthday/I'm Dead at the Elephant Theatre; the West Coast premiere of Brett Neveu's Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing at the Hayworth Theatre; and John Kolvenbach's On An Average Day for Vs. in Los Angeles and in Chicago. Writer-director credits include: Last Chance Gas, a part of the critically acclaimed Car Plays; Tranny for Little Bird Productions; Battleship for Moving Arts; and Waste of Shame for Vs. Ron's plays Pigs in Zen and Potatoes have received productions at the Generic Theatre in Virginia, the Gorilla Theatre in Kansas City and Moving Arts in Los Angeles. His short play The Straightenerouter received a production as part of the 2008 Abbie Hoffman Died For Your Sins Theatre Festival in Chicago and again in 2008 in Chicago as part of Wicker Park Nights at the Room Opera. His plays Dirt and Gender Studies recently received productions as a part of the Elephant Theatre's Love Bites, Version 8.0 and at the Whitefire Theatre. Ron is the literary director of the Vs. Theatre Company.
Johnny Clark (Ben) is the co-founder and artistic director of Vs. Theatre Company. Prior Vs. acting credits include The Credeaux Canvas; Modern Dance for Beginners; Navy Pier; Beggars in the House of Plenty; Waste of Shame; Eric LaRue; On An Average Day; Eagle Hills, Eagle Ridge, Eagle Landing; and Blackbird for which he received a Best Actor nomination from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for his performance as "Baylis." Other favorite stage credits: Death of A Salesman (Odyssey Theatre); Never Swim Alone (West Coast Ensemble); and ChicaGo Productions of Life and Limb; Brilliant Traces; and A Hatful of Rain. Johnny co-wrote, produced and starred in the Rhode Island Film Festival first prize-winning film Liars Club, which received a limited theatrical release.

Michelle Clunie (Abby) is best known for her role as Melanie Marcus in the groundbreaking show, Queer as Folk. Prior to that Clunie was seen on The Jeff Foxworthy Show as well as in numerous guest star and recurring roles. She won a Drama-Logue award for her role in A Comedy of Eros and a Best Supporting Actress award at the Breckenridge Film Festival for the indie, Leaving Barstow. She has toured with the Vagina Monologues and recently finished writing her first play, Transcending Maggie. She lends a good deal of her time to activism, mostly focused on the LGBT community and women's rights.

Neil LaBute received his M.F.A. in dramatic writing from New York University and was the recipient of a literary fellowship to study at The Royal Court Theatre. His films include In the Company of Men (New York Critics' Circle Award for Best First Feature, Filmmakers' Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival); Your Friends and Neighbors; Nurse Betty; Possession; The Shape of Things, a film adaptation of his play by the same title; The Wicker Man; Lakeview Terrace; and Death at a Funeral. LaBute's plays include Bash: latter-day plays; The Shape of Things; The Distance From Here; Fat Pig; This is How It Goes; Some Girl(s); Wrecks; In a Dark Dark House; reasons to be pretty; and The Break of Noon. LaBute is also the author of a collection of short stories entitled Seconds of Pleasure.

Set design forThe Mercy Seat is by Danny Cistone; lighting design is by Derrick McDaniel; costume design is by Gelareh Khalioun; production stage manager is Tommy Dunn; associate producers are Mercedes Manning and Carole Ursetti; producers are Andrew Carlberg, Johnny Clark and Kimberly-Rose Wolter.

The Mercy Seat is the third and final production in the 2010-11 Season at [Inside] the Ford, a three-play, curated series of new works from three L.A.-based theater companies that is supported by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Ford Theatre Foundation, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Mercy Seat runs Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, March 19 through April 24. Two previews take place on Thursday, March 17 and Friday, March 18, both at 8 pm. General admission is $20; seniors and full-time students with ID are $12. Pay-what-you-can tickets are available for previews and all Wednesday evening performances when purchased at the door (subject to availability).

[Inside] the Ford is located in the Ford Theatres complex at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA 90068, just off the 101 Hollywood Freeway across from the Hollywood Bowl and south of Universal Studios. On-site, non-stacked parking is free. For reservations and information, call the Ford Theatres Box Office at 323-461-3673 (323-GO-1-FORD) or go to www.FordTheatres.org.

Details for Calendar Listings
"The Mercy Seat"
The Mercy Seat - Vs. Theatre Company presents the Los Angeles premiere of Neil LaBute's scathing, trenchant and caustically funny examination of opportunism in the face of tragedy. Set on September 12, 2001, less than twenty-four hours after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, The Mercy Seat introduces us to lovers Ben and Abby. Ben was supposed to have been working in the Twin Towers on that fateful day; but was playing hooky with Abby, his mistress and boss. Suddenly the two see a new possibility for their future that didn't exist just a day earlier. Will Ben let his family know he's alive?

Written by Neil LaBute
Directed by Ron Klier
Starring Johnny Clark and Michelle Clunie
Presented by Vs. Theatre Company

Previews: March 17 & 18
Performances: March 19 through April 24:
Wednesdays at 8 pm: March 23, 30; April 6, 13, 20
Thursdays at 8 pm: March 17 (preview), 24, 31; April 7, 14, 21
Fridays at 8 pm: March 18 (preview), 25; April 1, 8, 15, 22
Saturdays at 8 pm: March 19 (Open), 26; April 2, 9, 16, 23
Sundays at 2 pm:March 20, 27; April 3, 10, 17, 24

[Inside] the Ford
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
Hollywood, CA 90068
(just off the 101, across the freeway from the Hollywood Bowl and south of Universal Studios)

323-461-3673 (GO-1-FORD) or www.FordTheatres.org

General admission:$20
Full-time students with ID:$12
Wednesdays and previews:Pay-What-You-Can

FREE on-site (non-stacked)


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