TFANA Will Present the New York Premiere of Will Eno's GNIT, Directed by Oliver Butler
Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA; Jeffrey Horowitz, Founding Artistic Director) will present the New York premiere of celebrated American playwright Will Eno's Gnit, inspired by Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt (originally published in 1867). Directed by Eno's frequent collaborator, the Obie and Lortel Award-Winner Oliver Butler (Eno's 2014 The Open House and the 2018 revival of Thom Paine (based on nothing), starring Michael C. Hall, both at Signature Theater, and 2019's The Plot at Yale Rep; Heidi Schreck's Tony Award-nominated What the Constitution Means to Me).
Gnit reimagines Ibsen's sprawling 19th century five-act play in verse as a quick-paced contemporary tragicomedy. Peter Gnit (Joe Curnutte) is a feckless, well-meaning sloucher who bounces between glib reactions to experience and ill-considered efforts at finding his True Self, all the while missing the love, joy, sorrow, goodness, and authentic experience surrounding him. Steeped in Eno's signature wordplay, wit, and pretension-skewering, Gnit finds hilarity in calamitous self-deception and profundity in a pratfall of a life. Gnit will be performed on the Samuel H. Scripps Mainstage at Polonsky Shakespeare Center (262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn), TFANA's home, March 7-March 29.
Will Eno explains: "I was intrigued by Ibsen's Peer Gynt as a play with a long and storied theatrical history, but one that seemed resistant to being staged. Also, it comes out of such an interesting moment-a little pre-Freudian, and a little post-Christian (in a philosophical sense)-but not fully alive and comfortable in either age. I hope I have taken what is subconscious in Peer Gynt and approached it a little more consciously. I think our Peter Gnit generally represents the last 100 years or so of American ideas about individualism, exceptionalism, and the like, but I hope he's also just a person with a mom."
Oliver Butler elaborates: "One of the challenges of staging Gnit is that this epic journey across a life is unmoored from any given setting; it transforms throughout, traveling across space and time. But we only have one stage. When we started the design process with Kimie Nishikawa we knew the play couldn't work like an old school musical with multiple sets for each scene, nor as a blank stage that demands: imagine it all. We landed somewhere between everything and nothing. The goal of this production is to do the most with the least, and what's there should give you just enough to imagine the rest."
Jeffrey Horowitz says: "Will Eno, like Samuel Beckett, whose Waiting for Godot follows Gnit, writes about what it feels like to be alive. And like Beckett, Will Eno has developed a very special sense of humor about a world where no one is sure of anything. For me, Gnit also resonates with Our Town, by another great American author, Thornton Wilder. At the end of Our Town Emily, now dead, goes back to earth for one day, her twelfth birthday. As she watches her family Emily sees that what is ordinary is wonderful but missed by the living because they are too busy. And in Gnit, Peter, in his search for his individuality, also misses what is all around him.
Will's Gnit is, of course, inspired by Ibsen's classic, Peer Gynt, a sprawling verse play that put Ibsen on the literary map. Will has created a sparkling new play that is both very funny and deeply heartfelt, one in the tradition of Brandon Jacobs Jenkins' An Octoroon, which was also inspired by a classic-Dion Boucicault's The Octoroon-which TFANA presented in 2015 in a production by Soho Rep.
Shakespeare also often made new plays inspired by older literary works. Supporting contemporary artists making new work inspired by the past is an activity TFANA is proud to support. Gnit had its world premiere at the Humana Festival in 2013. TFANA's 2020 New York premiere of Gnit directed by Oliver Butler, Will's close collaborator, builds on the shoulders of what was learned at the Humana Festival."
Gnit features Jordan Bellow (Interior at 59E59, The Tank's The Russian and the Jew, "Orange is the New Black") as Stranger 1; Joe Curnutte (Ars Nova's Mrs. Murray's Menagerie, Miles for Mary at Playwrights Horizons and Bushwick Starr, "The Get Down") as Peter; Crystal Dickinson (Clybourne Park and You Can't Take It With You on Broadway, "The Chi") as Solvay; Deborah Hedwall (Obie Award-winner for Sight Unseen at Manhattan Theatre Club, Curse of the Starving Class at Signature, directed by James Houghton, An Opening in Time at Hartford Stage, directed by Oliver Butler) as Mother; Matthew Maher (King Lear on Broadway, Othello at New York Theatre Workshop, The Flick and Mr. Burns at Playwrights Horizons, Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance, Marriage Story, "Nurse Jackie") as Town; and Erin Wilhelmi (Broadway-To Kill a Mockingbird, A Doll's House, Part 2, The Crucible; The Public's The Great Immensity; "Better Call Saul" and "The Knick") as Stranger 2. The creative team includes Kimie Nishikawa (Set Design), Ásta Bennie Hostetter (Costume Design), Amith Chandrashaker (Lighting Design), Lee Kinney (Sound Design), and Daniel Kluger (Composer).
Performances of Gnit will take place March 7, 8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-29 at 7:30pm; March 15, 21, 22, 28, and 29 at 2:00pm; and March 18 at 7:00pm.