Photo Flash: Palm Beach Dramaworks Presents THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES
It's October 4, 1965, and Pope Paul VI is spending 14 hours in New York City, marking the first visit by a reigning pope to the United States. Millions line the streets to greet him and zookeeper Artie Shaughnessy, a wannabe Hollywood songwriter with big dreams and no discernible talent, joins the throngs in the hope that a papal blessing will help propel him out of Queens, away from his mentally ill wife, Bananas, and into a new life in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Bunny Flingus.
The pontiff's historic excursion is a palpable presence in John Guare's black comedy The House of Blue Leaves, which closes out Palm Beach Dramaworks' 2018-2019 season. This surrealistic, heartbreaking and hilarious Obie Award-winning play, directed by J. Barry Lewis, opens on May 17 and continues through June 2, with specially priced previews on May 15 and 16.
The play's main characters lead lives of not-so-quiet, and often laugh-out-loud funny, desperation as the script ping-pongs between farce and poignant reality. Guare, who also wrote the entertainingly bad songs "composed" by Artie, has said that The House of Blue Leaves is about "humiliation and the cruelties people inflict on each other." Lewis calls it a play about dreams, "how we carry our dreams carefully so that we don't lose sight of that which is hoped for, that which is possible. And what happens when those dreams die." The play is also about our celebrity-obsessed culture and the outrageous things people will do for a few minutes of fame or notoriety.
PBD's production stars Bruce Linser as Artie, Elena Maria Garcia as Bananas (PBD debut), and Vanessa Morosco as Bunny, and features, in alphabetical order, Irene Adjan, Jim Ballard, Austin Carroll, Elizabeth Dimon, Margery Lowe, and Krystal Millie Valdes (PBD debut). Rounding out the cast are Timothy Bowman (PBD debut) and Pierre Tannous. Scenic design is by Victor Becker, costume design is by Brian O'Keefe, lighting design is by Kirk Bookman, and sound design is by Steve Shapiro.
The House of Blue Leaves premiered Off-Broadway in 1971, and starred Harold Gould as Artie, Katherine Helmond as Bananas, and Anne Meara as Bunny. It received the Obie Award for Best New American Play. A much-acclaimed 1986 revival, which opened Off-Broadway and transferred to Broadway, starred John Mahoney as Artie, Swoosie Kurtz as Bananas, and Stockard Channing as Bunny. Also featured in that cast, in his stage debut, was Ben Stiller as Ronnie Shaughnessy, Artie and Banana's son. Stiller returned to the play in a 2011 Broadway revival, this time playing Artie, with Edie Falco as Bananas, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Bunny.
John Guare was born in New York City in 1938, and was just 11 years old when he wrote his first play. He rose to prominence in 1971 with the Off-Broadway premiere ofThe House of Blue Leaves. His other best-known work isSix Degrees of Separation, for which he received a 1991 Obie Award, a 1991 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, and a 1993 Olivier Award. He also won the 1972 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for Two Gentlemen of Verona, as well as Drama Desk awards for Outstanding Book and Outstanding Lyrics. His other plays includeLandscape of the Body, Rich and Famous, Marco Polo Sings a Solo, Bosoms and Neglect, the Lydie Breezetrilogy, Moon Over Miami, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun,A Free Man of Color, and Nantucket Sleigh Ride, which is currently running Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater. He also wrote the screenplays for Six Degrees of Separation and for Louis Malle's Atlantic City, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. Guare received the PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award and the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the founding editor of the Lincoln Center Theater Review and a member of the Dramatists Guild.
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a non-profit, professional theatre and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the South Florida Theatre League, Florida Professional Theatres Association, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County.
Evening performances are Wednesday, Thursday, and select Sundays at 7:30PM, and Friday and Saturday at 8PM. Matinee performances are Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM. Post-performance discussions follow Wednesday matinee and Sunday evening performances. Individual tickets are $75, with specially priced preview tickets at $55 and Opening Night tickets at $90. Student tickets are available for $15, and Pay Your Age tickets are available for those 18-40. Tickets for educators are half price with proper ID (other restrictions apply). Group rates for 20 or more and discounted season subscriptions are also available.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042, or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.
Photo Credit: Alicia Donelan