L'AMOUR `A PASSY Comes to A.R.T. Next Month

Performances run November 4 to 20, 2022.

By: Oct. 04, 2022
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L'AMOUR `A PASSY Comes to A.R.T. Next Month

France's support of the nascent United States in 1778 is one of the great diplomatic triumphs of history, credited to the ambassadorial team of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. An exciting backstory to this miracle of statecraft is the platonic affair between Franklin and the flamboyant, beautiful Madame Brillon (Anne-Louise Hardancourt Brillon de Jouy). Spoiled by her wealthy, elderly husband and livid at having to coexist with his mistress (their children's governess), Madame Brillon made an open show of her affection for the "good doctor," flirtatiously calling him "Cher Papa" while perched on his lap and playing chess with him while in her bath.

"L'Amour `a Passy" by G.W. Reed, a new two-character play, is the story of their relationship, performed by its author as Franklin and Musa Gurnis as Madame Brillon, directed by Manfred Bormann. The events of the play invite tantalizing speculation on how Madame Brillon could have insinuated Franklin into the court of France, ultimately leading to the Franco-American alliance. It will debut November 4 to 20 at The Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at A.R.T./ New York Theatres, 502 West 53rd St., NYC, presented by B&R Productions.

The history in the play, telescoped for dramatic effect, is a beguiling mixture of actual events and "What if...?". Some events are injected into the play as possibility not fact, including whispers about the Queen's involvement with the German physician/hypnotist Franz Mesmer (whom Franklin actually investigated in 1780-82) and the Brillon family's intimacy with the Queen (conjecture on the playwright's part). What emerges, then, is a charming romantic comedy about Ben Franklin's struggle to control his sexual desire for a woman half his age. Dueling at chess while he marinates in her bath (good for his dermatitis), they match wits over love, sex, adultery and the Queen. In a humorous and touching way, Franklin helps Mme. Brillon with her husband's infidelity. (Jacques Brillon was part of a French aristocratic society that subjugated women.) Mme. Brillon's dialogue, and much of Franklin's interaction with her, is in a charming jumble of French and English that requires no subtitles to understand.

The playwright notes that Anne-Louise Brillon de Jouy was a well-known keyboardist and composer who held salons for musicians, intellectuals, philosophers and the whole of 18th-century bourgeois society, but his play skips over this aspect of her life in the interest of economy of scope.

G.W. Reed (playwright, Franklin) is the founding member of Workshop Theater, Touchstone Theater and The Actors Corner. At Riverside Shakespeare Co. he has appeared in "Hamlet" with Austin Pendleton and "Merry Wives of Windsor" with Anna Deavere Smith. He has toured the US and Canada playing James Tyrone in "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and Russia playing Jake in "Twenty Seven Wagons Full of Cotton." Off-Broadway, he appeared in "Carrin Beginning" at the Chelsea Playhouse, as Magistrate Posket in "The Magistrate" by Pinero and Mitch in "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the Greenwich Mews Theater, and as Burl in "The Young Coal Miner" at The Open Space. Regionally, he played Tony in "They Knew What They Wanted" at The Stamford Center of the Arts, the father in "Veronica's Room" by Ira Levine at the Schoolhouse Theater, Oliver Cromwell in "Milton" and the Nazi hunter Dr. Aaron Acosta in "Zimmerman" directed by Janet Hayes Walker at the Woodstock playhouse; and in "The Sorrows of Frederick" starring Austin Pendleton directed by Tom Brennan the Whole Theater. This is his fourth collaboration with Manfred Bormann: he played Arnold in "Jubilee," Herman Kafka in "Kafka's Quest" by Lu Hauser, and Lowbkowitz in "Mein Kampf," George Tabori's satirical stage play on Hitler, all at Theater for the New City. He has directed over ten plays Off-Off Broadway including the OOBR Award-winning play "Angel Wings" by Murray Schisgal at The Neighborhood Playhouse. "L'Amour `a Passy" is the fifth play he has written but the first to be produced. His others are "Longwood," "The Terrors of the Earth," "The Drunks" and "Franklin in France," which recounts other aspects of Franklin's diplomatic, military and political history.

Musa Gurnis (Mme. Hardancourt Brillon) is a theater scholar (PhD Columbia) as well as a practitioner. She is the author of several academic publications on Shakespearean theater, including the monograph "Mixed Faith and Shared Feeling: Theater in Post-Reformation London" (U Penn Press/Folger Shakespeare Library). She has dramaturged for Bedlam Theatre (NY), Brave Spirits (DC), and the Abbey National Theatre (Dublin). She is co-writer, with Eric Tucker, of the award-winning Shakespeare mash-up web series "BEDLAM," in which she also plays King Lear's Regan. She has trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London), Shakespeare Theatre Company (DC), Red Bull Theater (NY), and HB Studios (NY). New York theater credits include "Except Mr. Dickingson" (15th Street Meeting House), "Romeo and Juliet" (Rogue Theater) and "Idols" (Bonpoint Productions). Her regional credits include "Theory" (Mosaic, DC); "Les Deux Noirs" (Mosaic, DC), "Hamlet" (Organic Theater, Baltimore), and "The Changeling" and "The Duchess of Malfi" (Brave Spirits, DC). She appears in the film "Children of God" (release 2023).

Director Manfred Bormann has directed "Mother Courage" by Brecht and "The Tragicomedy of Don Cristobita and Dona Rosita" by Federico Garcia Lorca in Istanbul, Turkey; "The Servant of Two Masters" by Goldoni in Syracuse, NY and in various Off-off-Broadway theaters in New York; "How Mr. Mockinpott was cured of his Sufferings" by Peter Weiss, "Bremen Coffee" by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, "The License" by Pirandello, "A Report to an Academy" by Franz Kafka; "Endgame," "Not I" and "Krapp's Last Tape" by Beckett; "Self-Accusation" by Peter Handke; "Uncle Vanya " and "On the Harmfulness of Tobacco" by Chekhov; "Lucretia," "Pater Familia" and "Identity Unknown" by Don Donnellan, "Skerrys" by Christopher Jones, "The Trial of Klaus Barbie" by Fred Pezzulli; "Orange Bees" and "Waiting to see Carmen Basilio" by James DeMarse; "Kafka's Quest" by Lu Hauser, "Jubilee" and "Mein Kampf" George Tabori, and "Noises in my Head" by Beliz Güçbilmez.

Design Advisor is Harry Feiner. Lighting Design is by Matthew Deinhart. Costume Design is by Anthony Paul-Cavaretta. Production Stage Manager is Ali Walensky.

The A.R.T./New York Theatres are a project of the Alliance of Resident Theatres / New York ( A.R.T./New York), which provides state-of-the-art, accessible venues and top-line technical equipment at subsidized rates, so that the city's small and emerging theater companies can continue to experiment, grow, and produce new works. Founded in 1972, A.R.T./New York assists over 400 member theaters and realizing their rich artistic visions and serving their diverse audiences well. A.R.T./New York accomplishes this through providing progressive services to its members - from shared office and rehearsal spaces to technical assistance programs for emerging theaters. Because of this dedication to serving the needs of the nonprofit theater community, A.R.T./New York has received numerous honors, including an Obie award, and Innovative Theatre award, a New York City Mayor's Award for Arts and Culture, and a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre. For more information please visit www.art-newyork.org.