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BACK TO METHUSELAH - Part II Begins Previews at Washington Stage Guild Tonight


The Washington Stage Guild continues its Season of Love and/or Marriage with the next installment of a three-year dramatic extravaganza that culminates in the company's 30th anniversary, tonight, February 19 -March 15, 2015. BACK TO METHUSELAH, a cycle of plays by George Bernard Shaw that takes us from Adam and Eve meeting the Serpent in the Garden of Eden to a world 30,000 years in the future, is subtitled "a Metabiological Pentateuch." Rarely produced because of its expansive proportions, the five parts of the cycle are being presented in three annual installments, with Part II, THE THING HAPPENS (set 250 years in the future) and THE TRAGEDY OF AN ELDERLY GENTLEMAN (3000 AD) this season.

Performances and tickets are as follows:

Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. $40.00

Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. $50.00

Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. $40.00

Back to Methuselah is a visionary, fantastic masterwork that examines humanity's failings, from moral to political, and posits "Creative Evolution" as the solution. The various parts-whether fable, drawing-room comedy, farce, or fantasy-add up to what is considered one of the first theatrical works of science fiction. Artistic Director Bill Largess says,"Shaw began this gargantuan masterpiece in the final days of World War I, and his disgust with the foolish waste of life and the childish rush to war drove him to a kind of frenzy of inspiration, as he produced this cycle of plays that depicts the need for us to evolve further if we are to survive. Of course, another way of looking at his story is that we need to stop behaving as if we never matured."

He continues,"This year we pick up with his next two parts: The Thing Happens, a zany look at a futuristic world where the possibility of extending lives is proven, and proves difficult to accept, and The Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman, a fantasy in which the human race, divided into two kinds of people, those of normal lifespan and those who live centuries, faces the monumental decision about how, and whether, to coexist. Next season, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our founding, we'll complete the cycle with the final part that occurs 30,000 years from now. Back to Methuselah premiered in New York in 1923, and was produced at the Shaw Festival in 1969, but this will be only the third professional production in the Western Hemisphere." (A Milwaukee production was divided among professionals in some parts and college students in others).

Bill Largess continues at the directing helm of this multi-year project. A founding member of the Stage Guild and its artistic director since 2008, he has acted in or directed most of the Stage Guild's GBS offerings and was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for his portrayal of Jack Tanner/Don Juan in Shaw's Man and Superman.

Returning from last season's installment are many of the Stage Guild's Shavian "crew". Conrad Feininger follows up his appearance in Terence Rattigan's In Praise of Love, portraying the eternal politico Burge-Lubin and the Man of Destiny, Napoleon. Past performances at the Guild include parts in Molnar's A Tale of the Wolf (Helen Hayes nomination) and The Play's the Thing (twice), Shaw's Misalliance and Getting Married, Camping With Henry and Tom (Mary Goldwater Award) and Graham Greene's The Potting Shed. Later this spring, he will be at Olney Theatre Center, playing Gregory Soloman in Arthur Miller's The Price.

Another company founder, Laura Giannarelli, takes the stage as the Minister of Health, Fusima, and the Oracle. She has also directed for the company, most recently In Praise of Love, and The Old Masters last season. She is a veteran local actor, appearing at Olney Theatre (Angel Street); Everyman Theatre (Doubt); Studio Theatre (The Long Christmas Ride Home); the Kennedy Center (Dreams in the Golden Country); Round House Theatre (A Prayer for Owen Meany) and numerous venues and companies.

Brit Herring, who played Adam last season, returns as the Archbishop and the Envoy. His other Stage Guild credits include Red Herring and The Apple Cart. Most recently he played the title role in Macbeth at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Off Broadway he appeared in the critically acclaimed revival of Shel Silverstein's The Devil and Billy Markham at SoHo Playhouse and in Paradise at the Lion Theater on Theater Row.

Mrs. Lutestring and the Envoy's Wife are played by founding company member Lynn Steinmetz, who portrayed Eve last year. Over the past 30-something years, she has performed at venues in the Washington-Baltimore area including Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth, Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre, Everyman Theatre, the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian, and others.

Vincent Clark returns to this singular endeavor as the Elderly Gentleman, having played Lubin last time around. He has also appeared in Pygmalion, The Apple Cart, Augustus Does His Bit, Press Cuttings, Fanny's First Play, On the Rocks, Major Barbara, Too True to Be Good, Heartbreak House, Man and Superman, and John Bull's Other Island, all by G.B. Shaw.

Michael Avolio returns after acting in last year's Methuselah installment, as well as The Elder Statesman, The Apple Cart, and Red Herring. Appearing as Barnabas and the Envoy's son, he has also performed at Quotidian Theatre Company, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Rep Stage, and directed Quotidian's Hedda Gabler and The Iceman Cometh.

Joining the fun for the first time and making their Stage Guild debuts are Stephanie Schmalzle as Zoo and Jacob Yeh as Confucius and Zozim. Schmalzle has appeared in The Tempest at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, as Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Prince George's Shakespeare), Luisa in The Fantasticks (Rep Stage), and Susan in The Pitmen Painters (1st Stage). Jacob Yeh has appeared at Theater J, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Ford's Theatre, Imagination Stage, Studio Theatre's 2nd Stage, and others.
Shirong Gu has designed the setting, costumes are by Debra Kennedy, Marianne Meadows is the lighting desinger, and Frank DiSalvo, Jr., created the sound. Arthur Nordlie is the stage manager.

The Undercroft Theatre is located in the heart of downtown Washington, on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 9th Street, NW. It's steps from the Convention Center and within easy walking distance from Metro.

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