Center City Theatre Works Debuts With THE SHADOW BOX, 5/5

By: Apr. 12, 2011
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The newly formed Center City Theatre Works is set to produce its debut work later this spring. The company is pleased to bring Philadelphia audiences Michael Cristofer's award-winning The Shadow Box. This heartfelt drama begins previews on May 4, opens May 5, and will close May 21. The company is mounting its first production on the stage Upstairs at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street. Tickets cost $14-$22. Tickets are available online at or by calling the box-office at 215-546-6718.

The Shadow Box, written by Trenton-born actor, writer, director Michael Cristofer, revolves around a trio of terminally ill patients, who live with their families in separate cottages at a hospice facility. Each person is being interviewed about the process of dying. The first is Joe, a middle-aged, blue-collar family man. He appears to be handling his diagnosis fine and has accepted that is his fate. However, his wife Maggie is not accepting his medical ultimatum. She is in denial and has not told their son Steve about his father's terminal condition. The second person is Brian, a bisexual English professor who is being cared for by his lover, Mark. Things begin to unravel when Brian's trashy ex-wife Beverly arrives to see her former spouse. The third person is the elderly, cantankerous dementia riddled Felicity. Long cared for by her devoted but struggling daughter Agnes, Felicity is waiting for the return of her favorite daughter.

The play's original Broadway cast included Mandy Patinkin, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Vincent Spano. The play won the TONY and the Pulitzer Prize during its original Broadway run in the late 70s. This Philadelphia production will be directed by Center City Theatre Works founder Jeffrey Lesser. It features Ken Cohen, James Lepone, Melissa Connell, Isaiah Ellis, Marc Forget, John Schultz, Kirsten Quinn, Hilary Kayle Crist, and Mindi Ginsberg.

S Cory Palmer is designing set and creating the cottages of the hospice area. Jessica Wallace is creating the lighting. The production stage manager is Dawn Smith.

Lesser, also the Producing Artistic Director of the company chose to make Center City Theatre Works' debut with a play close to his heart. Lesser's uncle, Leonard Soloway, was one of the original producers of The Shadow Box on Broadway and received a TONY Award for it. Soloway has served as the General Manager or Producer for more than 200 Broadway productions and is an owner of Playhouse 91 and the Gramercy Theatre on 23rd Street. His credits include: High, now running on Broadway, Irena's Vow, Whoopi, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Urban Cowboy, Our Town (2002), Dame Edna: The Royal Tour (Tony Award), The Beauty Queen of Leenane , Laughter on the 23rd Floor, The Goodbye Girl , Death and the Maiden, Lost in Yonkers, and others.

"I first saw The Shadow Box at the age of 15 and it had a profound effect on me which has lasted all these years. I had always hoped to be involved in a production of it at some point in my life. When choosing our first production, The Shadow Box was number one on our list," said Lesser. "It is a timeless piece and while it deals with a difficult subject, it promotes thought and understanding. Through laughter and tears we are reminded of the importance of every moment in life. It has become a modern classic which is studied in most theater schools. "

Lesser is the founder and co-director of The Philadelphia Cabaret Performance Class along with Jeff McDonnell, as well as a voice teacher and coach. He has taught music for the past 15 years running a successful music studio. He has directed numerous Cabaret Showcases in both Philadelphia and Tampa and was the Director/Musical Director of the Stephen Sondheim musical, A Little Night Music, at the Adrienne in Philadelphia, and the Assistant Director/Casting Director and on the staff of the World Premiere Opera, The Sparks Fly Upward, in Des Moines, IA. As a performer he has appeared in several musicals as well as his own Cabaret Shows in New York City and has produced, directed and appeared in Cabaret Benefits for AIDS and Ovarian Cancer Research.

Cristofer, the plays' scribe, is also a noted actor and director. He most recently appeared in a recurring role on AMC's Rubicon. He wrote the screenplays for The Shadow Box (Golden Globe Award, Emmy nomination), Falling in Love, The Witches of Eastwick, The Bonfire of the Vanities, Breaking Up, and Casanova starring Heath Ledger. His directing credits include Gia, for HBO Pictures starring Angelina Jolie, Mercedes Ruehl and Faye Dunaway which was nominated for five Emmys and earned him a Director's Guild Award, and Original Sin starring Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas.

About Center City Theatre Works
Center City Theatre Works is a non-profit performing arts organization committed to producing a wide range of neglected plays and small musicals of the best possible quality. The company is dedicated to develop and draw from all local talents to the maximum extent possible. Founded in 2010, Center City Theatre Works' mission is to contribute to the cultural growth in the Philadelphia community.


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