A Victim of McCarthy Era Faces His Enemy in NYC Premiere, On a Darkling Plain

News   A Victim of McCarthy Era Faces His Enemy in NYC Premiere, On a Darkling Plain Norman Beim's prize-winning comedy-drama, On a Darkling Plain, makes its New York City premiere Jan. 10, marking the 55th anniversary of Elia Kazan's testimony before the House Un-American Actitivies Committee.
Jon Freda as George Makapolous and Tom Sminkey as Guy Leonard in Norman Beim's On a Darkling Plain.
Jon Freda as George Makapolous and Tom Sminkey as Guy Leonard in Norman Beim's On a Darkling Plain.

Turtle Shell Productions presents the work, which takes place during the final days of that witch-hunt era, when Americans were forced to appear and testify about their (or others') links to the Communist Party. Some resisted, others gave in. The play won the Americana Theatre's David James Ellis Memorial Award and was chosen as Best New Play in a nationwide competition conducted by the Street Players Theatre in Norman, OK.

The Off-Off-Broadway opening is Jan. 12 at the Turtle Shell Theatre, at 300 West 43rd Street, Fourth Floor, just off Eighth Avenue.

According to Turtle Shell notes, "On a Darkling Plain, set in 1964, tells the story of Guy Leonard, a blacklisted Broadway star and film actor who has been driving a cab for 12 years in order to support his family. He is suddenly confronted with a dilemma. Should he demean himself by appearing on TV in a commercial for toilet paper, or accept a leading role in a Broadway show staged by a director and former friend of his who named names and was responsible for ruining lives and causing the death of fellow actors?"

In the 1950s, "a black curtain was dropped on the entertainment industry when many where accused of being part of the Communist Party. Elia Kazan, one of our greatest American directors, named industry artists as being member of that party."

The cast includes Jon Freda as director George Makapolous and Tom Sminkey as Guy Leonard. Playwright Norman Beim has been produced nationally and internationally. His comedy-drama, Success, ran for more than a year in The Netherlands with two major Dutch stars, and was followed immediately by a long-running production of his modern comedy, Pygmalion and Galatea, with major stars. Six collections of Beim's plays have been published. His debut novel is "Hymie and the Angel."

Performances of On a Darkling Plain run Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 PM and Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM through Jan. 27. There is an additional performance on Jan. 22 at 7 PM. All tickets are $18. For reservations call (212) 868-4444 or visit www.SmartTix.com.

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In April, Turtle Shell Productions will be presenting the world premiere of a new musical, Fritz & Froyim, based on the novel "The Dance of Genghis Cohn" by Romain Gary. A staged reading of the musical was sponsored by The Rodgers & Hammerstein Foundation. The music is by Mark Barkan, whose songs have been recorded by Nat King Cole and Elvis Presley.

Turtle Shell Productions (John W. Cooper, artistic director) produced the acclaimed productions of Blues for Mr. Charlie and Summer and Smoke. The company seeks "a creative alliance between developing artists, industry professionals, and the youth of our community…to cultivate a stimulating environment in which to create theatre with a focus on current issues, ethics, culture and history. They pride themselves on creating a safe haven where youth and artists may grow in their craft and develop practical skills, while collaborating on productions that celebrate the universal truths of human experience and inspire the community."