Theater for the New City Presents THREE SISTERS AND A PRIEST and SUICIDE CLUB, 10/4-21
In 1999, Pope John Paul II stated in a public meeting, "Forget the popular notion of actual physical places--fluffy clouds above, an inky inferno below. Think of hell as a state of mind, a self-willed exile from God." This inspired playwright Mario Fratti to write a play in which three elderly, wealthy sisters are fascinated and confused by the Holy Father's words and summon a priest to clarify them. It is an ambush. He does not realize it. Theater for the New City will present the play, "Three Sisters and a Priest," October 4 to 21 in a double bill with "Suicide Club," a tragicomedy by Fratti in which, under false pretenses, a mother has joined a support group for survivors of family suicides. A visit by a fellow club member on the woman and her son leads to an unpredictable and surprising conclusion. Both plays are American premieres. The evening will be directed by Stephan Morrow.
"Suicide Club" emphasizes that people are almost never what they seem. The play reveals the insecurities that lead people to lie and the emotional chicanery with which they do it. There is a thin vein of jocularity in its cynical conclusion and its characters embody the deep emotional reality and dis-ease that makes Fratti's plays distinctively provocative. Fratti has a great sense of humor, even when he deals with the existential questions of religion, death and the meaning of life.
Mario Fratti (www.mariofratti.com), a prolific drama critic and a playwright, was born in Italy but has been living in New York since 1963. He had a long run on Broadway with the musical "Nine" (adaptation of his play "Six Passionate Women" - Life of Fellini - film "8 1/2"). His best known full-length plays include "Cage," "Victim," Eleonora Duse," White Widow," "Che Guevara," Pinochet-Chile '73," "Refrigerators," "Birthday," "Academy," "Sister," "Terrorist," "Lovers" and "Iraq." His plays have been performed in 19 languages. His most recent play, "Obama 44," will open at the Goldoni Theatre in Venice, Italy in April, 2013. A collection, "Unpredictable Plays," containing 28 works by Mario Fratti, has been published by New York Theatre Experience. (ISBN 978-0-9794852-0-6, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-217-9627)
It's an interesting historical footnote that Fratti was instrumental in arranging TNC's first international production, "Chile '73," at the Parma International Theater Festival. He also instigated a theater exchange between Theater for the New City and La Piccola Brigata of L'Aquila--his home town--in the 1988-1989 theater season. The L'Aquila theater company performed a realistic play by a local author at TNC and Crystal Field, Artistic Director of TNC, took over her vaudeville musical, "One Director Against His Cast," with a TNC company. About 20 years later, the 2009 Abruzzi earthquake shattered that quaint medieval walled city, including the apartment near the town square where Fratti, an expatriate, had sentimentally maintained an Italian residence. He was active in relief efforts for the town and now treasures his remaining ties to it. Theater for the New City also conducted its own fundraising effort for earthquake relief in L'Aquila.
Fratti's recent TNC productions include "Trio" (2010) and "Quartet" (2011); both directed by Stephan Morrow. The first play Morrow ever acted in as an adult was a Fratti play, "The Cage," at Manhattan Theater Club, followed closely after by "Her Voice," which was part of an evening of one-acts by Fratti at The Quaigh Theater.
Most recently, Morrow has also helmed "Triangle - The Shirtwaist Triangle Factory Fire" by J. Gilhooley at 59E59St Theaters, "Wall St. Fandango" by Murray Schisgal at The Actor’s Studio and TNC, and "Dogmouth" by John Steppling at TNC. In 2007 he acted in and directed Norman Mailer’s play, "The Deer Park," and was then invited to co-direct a film of the play with Mr. Mailer and act in it. Morrow was mentored in the Playwright Directing Unit of the Actor’s Studio by Elia Kazan.
The plays will have set design by Mark Marcante and lighting design by Alexander Bartenieff. Utilizing the long width of TNC's Cino Theater, the production design will have a kitchen scene for "Suicide Club" side-by-side with a marble-columned, divan-furnished living room for "Three Sisters and a Priest." The action will shift from the first set to the second after a brief intermission. Music will be operatic overtures to set the tone of each play; works by Puccini and Verdi are being considered. "The plays breathe in the presence of these," explains director Stephan Morrow, who will do the sound design.
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (East Village) presents "Three Sisters and a Priest" and "Suicide Club" by Mario Fratti from October 4 to 21, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 seniors and students. Tickets can be reserved by calling the box office at (212) 254-1109 or purchased online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.
Photo credit (top): Adele Bossard. Photo credit (bottom): Jonathan Slaff.