Kate Whoriskey (Massacre, Fabulation) directs the American premiere of the adaptation of the Aphra Behn work, which began previews Feb. 2 for a run through March 9. Juwon Ogungbe provides original music, and Warren Adams choreographs.
Based on a novella by Behn, Bandele adapted the tale of the titular "African prince, who, along with his wife, is sold into slavery by one of their own," according to show notes.
Jones (Henry IV, Pericles) stars in the title role in a cast that also includes TFANA veterans David Barlow (Andora), Greg Derelian (Oliver Twist), Graeme Malcolm (Waste), Christen Simon and Ezra Knight (Merchant of Venice and Jew of Malta). John Douglas Thompson (Cyrano), Leroy McClain (Cymbeline), Toi Perkins, Che Ayende, Ira Hawkins and Jordan C. Haynes round out the ensemble.
The Royal Shakespeare Company commissioned (and debuted) Oroonoko, which was penned by Nigerian writer and England resident Bandele based on the 1688 novella. "With vibrant words, drumming and dance based on Yoruba culture, Mr. Bandele tells a tragic love story, a journey from kingship to slavery, rebellion and death [from the first professional female author in Europe]... based on tales told by the African slaves brought over by the Dutch."
"I want to give the audience an idea of the complex society from which Oroonoko came," said Bandele in the announcement. "The play I've written has slavery at its heart, but it's also a simple story about a man and a woman, and how everything around them conspires to frustrate their love. Often African male characters such as Behn's Oroonoko are portrayed as extraordinary. But, in my version, Oroonoko is deeply flawed. He refuses to have an independent mind. That's what lands him into slavery." The Oroonoko design team features John Arnone (scenic), Don Holder (lighting), Emilio Sosa (costumes) and Fabian Obispo (sound). Rick Sordelet is the fight choreographer. Mar Gueye performs as drummer.
Adrienne Kennedy's Ohio State Murders opened Theatre for a New Audience's 29th season — billed under the theme "Africa, Europe, America: Exploring the Connections." William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra (directed by Darko Tresnjak) will play next (March 22-May 2).
Tickets for Oroonoko at The Duke, 229 West 42nd Street, are available by calling (646) 223-3010 or online at dukeon42.org. For more information visit tfana.org.