Cutting Ball Theater Opens THE CHAIRS, 3/1

Cutting Ball Theater continues its 14th season with Eugene Ionesco's THE CHAIRS, in a new translation by Rob Melrose. This tragic farce, in the tradition of Cutting Ball's hit productions of Ionesco's The Bald Soprano (2010) and Victims of Duty (2008), is as comedic as it is heartbreaking. Annie Elias (Tenderloin) directs THE CHAIRS, featuring David Sinaiko, Tamar Cohn, and Derek Fischer, March 1 through 31 (Press opening: March 7) at the Cutting Ball Theater in residence at EXIT on Taylor (277 Taylor Street) in San Francisco. For tickets ($10-50) and more information, the public may visit or call 415-525-1205.

THE CHAIRS follows an elderly couple who pass their time in an abandoned seaside building playing private games and telling each other half-remembered stories. Adrift in a world of their own, the Old Man resolves to convey his wisdom to a lifetime of friends, but while the Old Woman frantically sets out chairs, all of their invited guests appear to be imaginary. An eccentric meditation on the human condition, THE CHAIRS humorously blurs the line between fantasy and hallucination as the couple's game becomes their reality. Melrose's new translation offers a fresh take on this absurdist masterpiece.

"After such a tremendous reception at Cutting Ball last season with Tenderloin, I am delighted to return to direct The Chairs," said director Annie Elias. "With this new translation of Ionesco's classic tragic farce, we pay homage to his declared aesthetic sources; some may find it surprising that Ionesco was inspired by Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, as well as cartoons. At the same time, the play conveys a pathos and humanity beneath the surface antics. Written in 1952, The Chairs is just as relevant and poignant, and humorous, today as it was when it was penned."

"I am very excited about The Chairs," said Cutting Ball Artistic Director, and translator, Rob Melrose. "After our successes with Ionesco's The Bald Soprano and Victims of Duty, we are doing a new translation of one of Ionesco's best plays. Annie Elias, who did such marvelous work with her actors in Tenderloin, directs this production, which is entirely dependent on having two excellent actors interacting with a host of provocative, but invisible, characters. I can't wait to see what Annie does with her production of this masterful play."

Cutting Ball Theater has assembled a trio of talented actors for THE CHAIRS. An Associate Artist at Cutting Ball, David Sinaiko (Old Man) most recently appeared in the company's productions of Strindberg Cycle: The Chamber Plays in Rep, Tenderloin, Lady Grey (in ever lower light), The Tempest, Krapp's Last Tape, ...and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, The Bald Soprano, Victims of Duty, and Endgame. Other Cutting Ball credits include The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, The Sandalwood Box, Ajax for Instance, Macbeth, 365 Plays/365 Days, Woyzeck, Chain Reactions, and RISK IS THIS...The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival. Additional credits include productions at Golden Thread Productions, Crowded Fire Theater, and SF Playhouse; Sinaiko has been seen at the Goodman Theatre, The Actor's Gang, and in the popular Bay Area one-man production of David Sedaris' SantaLand Diaries. He was a founding member of Chicago's New Crime Productions.

Tamar Cohn (Old Woman) was last seen at Cutting Ball in the RISK IS THIS... The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival staged reading of Trojan Barbie. Regional credits include productions at Theatre Rhinoceros (100 Saints You Should Know), Brava Theater (The Oldest Profession), Center REPertory Company (Witness for the Prosecution), The Jewish Theatre (2 x Malamud: The Jewbird and The Magic Barrel), and California Conservatory Theatre (Incorruptible). Additional credits include productions at AlterTheater Ensemble, Playwrights Foundation, Woman's Will, 6th St. Playhouse, and Pacific Alliance Stage Company, among others.

An Associate Artist at Cutting Ball, Derek Fischer (Orator) appeared in the company's productions of Pelleas & Melisande and The Bald Soprano, and was seen in The Insect Play as part of the Hidden Classics Reading Series. Additional credits include productions at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, California Shakespeare Theater, PianoFight, and the Bay One Acts Festival.

Director Annie Elias specializes in ensemble playmaking. She brings a background in physical theater and improvisation, including performing with Chicago's celebrated commedia-based company New Crime Productions, to her direction of THE CHAIRS. In addition to last season's hit production of Tenderloin at Cutting Ball, Elias created and directed the documentary theater pieces Moon Over Marin, Write a Book, Have a Child, Plant a Tree, and Epiphany. She has written and directed numerous plays for Phantom Theater including Rip! The Twenty Year Night, Descent into Mayhem, Raising Rapunzel, Intellect, and Hedda Takes. Elias is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including a development grant from the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science and Technology Project for her dance/theater adaptation of Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, and development support from the Magic Theatre for her play Entranced, based on the Sleeping Beauty myth. She holds a B.A. from Mills College, was a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, and studied dramaturgy at the American Repertory Theater Institute at Harvard University. She is the Chair of the Performing Arts Department at Marin Academy.

Rob Melrose is the Artistic Director and co-founder of the Cutting Ball Theater and works nationally as a freelance director. He has directed at the Guthrie Theater (Happy Days, Pen, Julius Caesar - with The Acting Company); Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Troilus and Cressida - in association with The Public Theater), Magic Theatre (An Accident, World Premiere); PlayMakers Rep (Happy Days); California Shakespeare Theater (Villains, Fools, and Lovers); Black Box Theatre (The Creature, World Premiere); Actors' Collective (Hedda Gabler); The Gamm Theatre (Creditors); and Crowded Fire Theater (The Train Play), among others. Directing credits at Cutting Ball include Strindberg Cycle: The Chamber Plays in Rep, Pelleas & Melisande, the Bay Area Premiere of Will Eno's Lady Grey (in ever lower light); The Tempest; The Bald Soprano; Victims of Duty; Bone to Pick and Diadem (World Premiere); Endgame; Krapp's Last Tape; The Taming of the Shrew; Macbeth; Hamletmachine; As You Like It; The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World; Mayakovsky: A Tragedy; My Head Was a Sledgehammer; Roberto Zucco; The Vomit Talk of Ghosts (World Premiere); The Sandalwood Box; Pickling; Ajax for Instance; Helen of Troy (World Premiere); and Drowning Room (World Premiere). Translations include No Exit, Woyzeck, Pelléas and Mélisande, The Bald Soprano, and Ubu Roi. He is a recipient of the NEA / TCG Career Development Program award for directors, and has taught at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, University of San Francisco, the University of Rhode Island, and Marin Academy.

Playwright Eugene Ionesco is considered the father of the Theatre of the Absurd. Rejecting the logical plot, character development, and thought of traditional drama, Ionesco created his own anarchic form of comedy to convey modern man's existence in a universe ruled by chance. He is the author of more than 20 plays, including THE CHAIRS (1952), The Bald Soprano (1950), The Lesson (1951), Victims of Duty (1953), Jack, or the Submission (1954), Rhinoceros (1959), Exit the King (1962), A Stroll in the Air (1963), Macbett (1972), and Journeys Among the Dead (1980). Although there were thematic bridges among Ionesco and his playwriting peers, his distinction was in his fanciful surrealism and sense of Dada. Ionesco's peers included Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Arthur Adamov; his pioneering work in absurdism laid the foundation for contemporary playwrights including Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard.

Co-founded in 1999 by theater artists Rob Melrose and Paige Rogers, Cutting Ball Theater presents avant-garde works of the past, present, and future by re-envisioning classics, exploring seminal avant-garde texts, and developing new experimental plays. Cutting Ball Theater has partnered with Playwrights Foundation, and the Magic Theatre/Z Space New Plays Initiative to commission new experimental works. The company has produced a number of World Premieres, West Coast Premieres, and re-imagined various classics. Cutting Ball received the 2008 San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie award for outstanding talent in the performing arts, and was voted "Best Theater Company" in the 2010 San Francisco Bay Guardian Best of the Bay issue. The company also earned the Best of SF award in 2006 and "Best Experimental Theater Company" in 2012 from SF Weekly, and was selected by San Francisco magazine as Best Classic Theater in 2007. Cutting Ball Theater was featured in the February 2010 and 2012 issues of American Theatre Magazine.

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