The reading series of four contemporary plays is linked to the theme of the current three-play season, which focuses on Jews in English literature. Two of the readings were written in direct response to The Merchant of Venice.
TFANA associate artistic director Arin Arbus produces and literary advisor Michael Feingold curates the Monday-night readings (starting Feb. 5) that launch Theatre for a New Audience's Literary Supplement.
Sir Arnold Wesker's Shylock (formerly titled The Merchant) (directed by Arbus); A.R. Gurney, Jr.'s Overtime (directed by Evan Yionoulis); Feingold's Among Gentlemen, an adaptation of Henry Bernstein's Israel (directed by Carl Forsman); and John Galsworthy's Loyalties (directed by Arbus) comprise the series. All readings are free and will begin 7:30 PM at The Duke on 42nd Street.
"We're reading these plays at a time of Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rants; when Israel's legitimacy as a state is under attack; when there's a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe; when Iran is simultaneously developing nuclear weapons and holding a conference of Holocaust deniers; when the Pope attacks Islam; when the American government tells us that a group of Muslims want to end our way of life," TFANA artistic director Jeffrey Horowitz stated in an announcement. "These plays are more than timely because the hatred, anxiety, violence and savagery revealed in them are all too visible in our world."
The lineup will play as follows:
Shylock (Feb. 5)
"An alternative telling of Shakespeare's story, this time setting the conflict between Shylock and Antonio in the context not only of a larger society where Jews and Christians interact, but in the context of the philosophic and economic conflicts that molded Renaissance Europe." Zero Mostel, who starred in the original title role (The Merchant) in 1977, died suddenly following one performance of the Broadway-bound work. The reading stars Alvin Epstein (as Shylock), Marian Seldes (re-creating her original role), Mia Barron, Jordan Charney, David Townsend, Carmen Lacivita , Cindy Katz, Robert Stattel, Gareth Saxe, Max Casella, Kate Forbes, Melissa Miller, Jesse Pennington and Nicholas Kepros.
Overtime (Feb. 12)
A "frothy, sardonic sequel to The Merchant of Venice [that] begins with the end of Shakespeare's last act, as Portia and her guests celebrate their victory over Shylock at her estate." Originally produced in 1996. The reading cast features Nicholas Kepros (reprising his original role as Shylock), Kathleen McElfresh, Jedediah Schultz, Maria Elena Ramirez , Edward O'Blenis, Aya Cash, Jeffrey Withers, Rufus Collins and Brennan Brown.
The 1908 melodrama is explained in this manner: "As a prelude to a political takeover, right-wing Christian extremists campaign to drive a prominent Jew out of polite society, with shockingly unexpected consequences."
Loyalties (March 5)
A 1921 classic suspense drama from the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Forsyte Saga that "hinges on delicate issues of money, ethnicity, truth and social acceptance, which combine to move toward tragedy when a wealthy young Jewish guest at an aristocratic country house finds a large sum of money missing from his room an has the effrontery to accuse a fellow guest." Casts for the Bernstein and Galsworthy readings will be announced shortly.
Reservations to the readings at The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 West 42nd Street, are required and can be made by calling (212) 229-2819, ext. 10. For more information visit www.tfana.org/.