SHADOW OF HEROES Plays Through December 9 at Metropolitan Playhouse
Obie Award winner Metropolitan Playhouse brings Robert Ardrey's documentary play to the stage for its first New York revival. The limited run, closing December 9, 2018, plays at the Playhouse home at 220 E 4th Street. Alex Roe directs.
SHADOW OF HEROES mixes Ardrey's storytelling flare with a documentary theater style to make a drama both passionately human and politically revelatory. The story of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 tells of devoted believers in an idealistic cause confronting both political foes and their own crises of faith. It is an uncommonly nuanced and powerful portrait of human conviction and betrayal. It is also a stirring political history, drawn from meticulous research of the brutal, often absurd power politics of Hungary's Soviet-controlled government.
Says director, Alex Roe: "We present Shadow of Heroes lest we forget the struggles for better futures that have been waged in such recent history, and the perilous fragility of our open society. It is the rare political play that speaks as loudly to the right and as to the left, grounding its inspirations in the lives of its vibrant, conflicted characters. And it is true. Ardrey's play is one of the most significant and urgent of Metropolitan's revivals to date."
SHADOW OF HEROES premiered at London's Piccadilly Theater with Peggy Ashcroft as Julia Rajk under the direction of Peter Hall. It is said that it brought enough attention to Julia Rakj's story that it influenced her release from Soviet prison within two weeks of its London opening. An off-Broadway performance at the York Playhouse followed in 1961, but today, the play and the history it portrays are hardly so well known.
And yet, its unfamiliar history is a prescient cautionary tale from 1958, as SHADOW OF HEROES enlivens issues confronting all the world in 2018. The play paints a vivid portrait of ideological zeal corrupting its adherents, of falsehoods deployed to protect the interests of the powerful, of anointed leaders of a Faith betraying its tenets, of chaos and suspicion at the core of an autocratic government, and ultimately of a victimized woman's story stirring a national movement.
Robert Ardrey (1908 - 1980) Born and raised in Chicago, Robert Ardrey found a mentor in Thornton Wilder at the University of Chicago, where he graduated in 1930. Early plays include STAR SPANGLED (1935), CASEY JONES and HOW TO GET TOUGH ABOUT IT (1938), and the anit-isolationist THUNDER ROCK (1939). His most famous play, Thunder Rock was first poorly received in a United States wary of entering WWII, but it scored a great hit in a more sympathetic London. Later plays include JEB (1946) and SING ME NO LULLABY (1954). Screenplays include popular adaptations of THE GREEN YEARS (1946),THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948, with Gene Kelly), MADAME BOVARY (1949), THE SECRET GARDEN (1949), and THE KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED (1940, with Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton), and the Oscar-nominated original screenplay for KHARTOUM (1966, with Charlton Heston and Sir Laurence Olivier). He is also known for his often controversial nonfiction on human origins and behavior: AFRICAN GENESIS (1961), THE TERRI
TORIAL IMPERATIVE (1966), THE SOCIAL CONTRACT (1970), and THE HUNTING HYPOTHESIS (1976). Ardrey died in 1980 in Capetown, South Africa.
SHADOW OF HEROES is directed by Metropolitan Artistic Director Alex Roe (A Marriage Contract, Injunction Granted, Year One of the Empire). The production stars Erin Beirnard (End of Summer, The Climbers) as Julia Rajk, Trevor St. John-GILBERT(A Marriage Contract) as Laszló Rajk , and Michael Turner as János Kádár. DAVID LOGAN RANKIN (Indians, Within the Law) is Ernö Gerö, and ZENON ZELENIUCH is Mátyás Rákosi. The cast features Margaret Catov (The Climbers), Steve Humphreys, H. Clark KEE (Denial), JOE MENINO, Joel Rainwater (The Boss), and James Ross. Set design is by VINCENT GUNN, Costumes by NYIT Award winner Sidney Fortner (You and I, The Jewish King Lear, The Climbers, A Marriage Contract, The House of Mirth), Lighting by JESSIE LYNN SMITH, and Sound Design by Bill Toles (Walk Hard). Stage Manager is Mary Linehan.
Shadow of Heroes is presented by special arrangement with the Robert A. Freedman Dramatic Agency, Inc.
METROPOLITAN PLAYHOUSE, in its 27th season, explores America's theatrical heritage through forgotten plays of the past and new plays of American historical and cultural moment. The theater received a 2011 OBIE Grant from The Village Voice for its ongoing productions that illuminate who we are by revealing where we have come from. Called "invaluable" by the Voice and Back Stage, Metropolitan has earned further accolades from The New York Times and The New Yorker. Other awards include Outstanding Performing Arts Group from the Victorian Society New York, 3 Aggie Awards from Gay City News, 20 nominations for NYIT Awards (including three winners), and 6 AUDELCO Viv Award nominations. Recent productions include THE JEWISH KING LEAR, A MARRIAGE CONTRACT, THE CLIMBERS, ON STRIVERS ROW, WALK HARD, INJUNCTION GRANTED, THE MAN OF THE HOUR, ICEBOUND, WITHIN THE LAW, THE HERO,BOTH YOUR HOUSES, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, DEEP ARE THE ROOTS, THE JAZZ SINGER, ONE-THIRD OF A NATION, UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, a
$30 general admission, $25 students/seniors, and $10 children 18 and under.
To purchase tickets online visit www.metropolitanplayhouse.org/tickets, or call 800 838 3006.
Photo: Vadim Goldenberg