Theatre for the New City Presents Jim Farmer's THE SUPPER CLUB OF LOST CAUSES, 11/6 - 11/29
Certain small, old towns of the Northeast are full of time warps. People crossing the street can seem like they sprang from decades past and certain buildings are forgotten relics, unseen and unnoticed. As a boy, playwright/director Jim Farmer saw "The Sound of Music" in a large, decrepit movie theater in Hawley, PA, near Lake Wallenpaupack. The movie palace's sad and spooky overtones brought back feelings he had as a younger child, when he was taken by his parents to a supper club in Bayonne NJ, his hometown. Surrounded by its scratchy jazz band and eerie, wrinkled comics, Farmer knew that he wasn't experiencing a "Jack Benny Show" of the past but a David Lynch moment of the future.
His new play, THE SUPPER CLUB OF LOST CAUSES, is about that feeling of being caught in noirish, purgatorial places where the passage of time is suspended. Mr. Farmer has worked with The Ridge Theater, which is famous for experimental operas of this genre, like "Jack Benny" and "Everyday Newt Burman" (composed by John Moran and directed by Bob McGrath). Farmer composed scores for the Ridge's productions of "Alice in Bed" (ART Theater, Cambridge, MA), "Jungle Book" (One Dream Theater) and "Pieces of the Ridge" (The Kitchen). Since 1992 he has honed his playwriting sensibilities in a series of dramatic works which have found a cult audience at Naked Angels, where he has been a steady contributor in the "Tuesdays" developmental series.
THE SUPPER CLUB OF LOST CAUSES is one of these. Part vaudeville and part nightmare, it's set in a faded glory supper club in Hawley, PA. Such establishments were commonly found along rural highways outside of towns, providing supper and cheap, all-night entertainment, including music and dancing. Some of them had gambling and rooms for travelers, adding to their disreputable allure. They were well past their time by the Jack Benny era, but hung on (at least, in this play) in places like Hawley, PA.
Farmer fills his SUPPER CLUB with hapless characters, disorienting theatrics and pastiche dialogue. The owner of the club and master of ceremonies is in love with the wife of his bandleader. The bandleader is, in turn, infatuated with the owner's protégé, a sexy Vietnamese "performance artist" who is fixated on a past lover in California. The interactions vacillate between false optimism and despair. A State Policeman arrives ("Staties" are omnipresent in Northeastern Pennsylvania) to arrest the bandleader and is killed by flying metal from an exploding laundry-mat next door. Throughout, the play satirizes both film noire and Freudian dramas. There is strong mix of surreal comedy and real tenderness.
As composer, Jim Farmer's feature film credits include "Johnny Suede" (starring Brad Pitt), "Living in Oblivion" (starring Steve Buscemi and Kathrine Keener), "Box of Moonlight" (starring John Tutturo and Sam Rockwell), "The Real Blonde" (starring Matthew Modine, Daryl Hannah & Kathleen Turner) and "Double Whammy" (starring Denis Leary and Steve Buscemi). His plays now include "Frontier Halloween," "Pistols and Stamens," "The Savage Routine of Living," "We Never Learn" (One Dream Theater), "Yonder Window Breaks" (Angel Orensanz Theater), "Morning Milking, Evening Milking" (Irish Arts Theater, Currican Theater, Theater for the New City). His first five plays were musicals. His last play, "I've Been Drunk for Three Weeks and I Have a Gun" (Altered Stages), combined James Joyce's literary style ("Finnegan's Wake") with Raymond Chandler's ("Farewell My Lovely"). He just finished writing a full length musical, "When Existential Things Happen to Good People."
Farmer sites seeing The Ridge Theater's work as being very influential. He relates that "Jack Benny" (La MaMa, 1989) encouraged his wanting to become a playwright. He saw "Everyday Newt Burman" (1993) nine times, "the only New York theater production I ever saw more than once," and it inspired him to create his own genre. While eating at The Oyster House in New Orleans, he bumped into Fred Tietz, who had played Jack Benny, and befriended him. Tietz subsequently appeared in Farmer's first play, "Frontier Halloween."
Farmer wrote a play a year in the '90s. In these years, he also became a member of the acting and directing unit of the Actor's Studio. More recently, his creative home has shifted to Naked Angels, where he has assembled something of a following with offbeat plays like this one.
The production is directed by its author. The all-equity cast is: Audrey Rapoport, Richard Brundage, Siho Ellsmore, Jeff Pucillo, Brian Linden, Darcie Sicilano, Bernard Bygott, Steve Greenstein and Blaire Stauffer.
Set and costume design are by Victoria Imperioli, who was resident designer of Theater Dante. Lighting design is by David Zeffren.
SUPPER CLUB begins November 6 with an opening date of November 12 and runs through November 29 at Theater for the New City. Performances take place Wed-Sat at 8:00 PM; Sun at 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM. There will be show on Thanksgiving Day. Tickets are $15 and are available at the box office at 212-254-1109 or online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.