Ugo Chukwu, Keilly McQuail and More to Star in PlayCo's LUNCH BUNCH; Cast and Creative Team Announced
The Play Company (PlayCo; Founding Producer Kate Loewald, Managing Director Robert Bradshaw) announced the cast and creative team for Sarah Einspanier's Lunch Bunch, directed by Tara Ahmadinejad. Commissioned by Clubbed Thumb, Lunch Bunch was developed and first produced in 2019 in Clubbed Thumb's Winterworks and Summerworks series. Returning from Clubbed Thumb's 2019 presentations are Ugo Chukwu, Keilly McQuail Julia Sirna-Frest and Paco Tolson; new cast members include Tina Chilip, David Greenspan, Mel Krodman and Olivia Phillip. Jean Kim (Set Design), Alice Tavener (Costume Design), Oona Curley (Lighting Design), and Ben Vigus (Sound Design) likewise return to the production's creative team. Performances will take place at the 122CC Second Floor Theatre (150 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10009), March 18 - April 19, 2020.
Lunch Bunch-inspired by the lunches of the real-life Bronx Defenders, where Einspanier's childhood friend works-is a tribute to the sacrifices public servants make every day. The play's characters seek meaning, belonging, and some semblance of order in daily culinary minutiae amidst the failures and injustices of larger social systems around them, as the momentous (The Law) projects itself onto the mundane (lunch). Einspanier's "charming and smart" (The New York Times, in a Critic's Pick review) play kindly exposes the quirks of its characters' coping mechanisms and communicates the dire circumstances their clients face.
Kate Loewald says, "One of the reasons I love this show so much is because Sarah and Tara employ every element of theater in such a precise, fun, meticulous way that doesn't call attention to itself. Often, a text may be really exciting but then everything else in a production is conventional, or vice versa-but I feel like everything in this show just lifts up what theater can be in such a wonderful way. It's unusual for PlayCo to take on a project after it's had a production in New York, but we fell in love with the play when we saw it in Clubbed Thumb's Winterworks, and committed to supporting the project in whatever way Sarah and Tara wanted us to. This next iteration is an opportunity for them and their collaborators to devote time and resources to further develop the work, and to bring it to more people."
Einspanier says, "I wanted to show a workplace that was pressurized, but also ventilated with joy, energy, and levity. How do these workers bear the weight of client trauma, state power, long hours, and insufficient pay without collapsing in court? Where does this pain, stress, fear, etc. resurface--in culinary obsessions, eyelid ailments, guilty pastimes, coat closet breakdowns."
Einspanier's script bears nearly no stage directions-but rather wildly fluctuating font sizes, codified punctuation, and rhythmic spacing, lending a meticulous musicality to everyday speech, as lists of enticing ingredient combinations are layered atop characters' varied chaotic existences. Paralleling the script's symphony of overworked and gastronome voices, Ahmadinejad has brought a precise "chaireography" to her vision of the play, and its evocation of characters' individual relationships to (and sublimations of) their emotionally draining work. The production's office-chair-oriented movement, over the course of the play, becomes its own language-a heightened expression wrought from a mundane object.
Ahmadinejad says, "Sometimes I feel like I'm working with a sports team; it's very challenging to perform. The actors have to work together as a team and rely on each other, while also evoking a sense of hunger and competition among them. This speaks to the lawyers' experience, their striving in an inhospitable system to help their clients, their mutually supportive yet competitive lunch making, and the overall attempt to find balance and meaning in their lives."
Performance Schedule and Ticketing
Performances of Lunch Bunch will take place March 18 - April 19, 2020 at the 122CC Second Floor Theatre (150 1st Avenue, Second Floor, New York, NY 10009). Critics are welcome March 26-29 for an official opening on Sunday, March 29 at 7:00 pm. Regular performances will take place beginning Tuesday, March 31, Tuesdays - Saturdays at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 4pm.
Tickets are currently on sale at playco.org. Regular prices are $35 General Admission/$45 Premium Reserved. PlayCo is offering its OpenHouse Access Program with multiple pricing levels to increase accessibility. On this initiative, Kate Loewald says, "PlayCo is committed to maintaining affordable access as part of our mission. We always maintain modest ticket prices, and our OpenHouse Access Program advances our efforts to remove price as a barrier."
As part of the program, $15 "Theater for Everyone" tickets are currently available - until February 16 - for performances March 18 - April 1. $15 student tickets can be purchased in advance with a valid school ID presented at will call. Group rates and discounts for teachers, librarians, first responders, and active duty personnel will also be available-call 212.398.2977 for details. For full details, visit playco.org.