Cooee: The Call of the Bush, a one-woman exploration of the lives of five Australian women, plays the Lumia Theatre-Stage II, home of the New Jersey Repertory Company, beginning July 8.
Dianne O'Neill's play features Kittson O'Neill, directed by Alexandra Ornitz, July 8-9 and 15-16. The play is one of two full stagings in a NJ Rep summer that also includes a clutch of staged readings of new works at the 56-seat Stage II, in Long Branch, NJ.
In Cooee, the sights and sounds of the Australian bush are brought to life as bushwomen who have carved a living out of the hostile outback wilderness are presented in contrast to a modern woman's angst.
Marion is a joyful pillar of strength and protects her homestead with the ferocity of a lioness; Molly the woodcutter has planted herself firmly in the world of men, but hides a true romantic under her work boots and undershirts; bitter Auntie Jule and gentle Grandma Tish are contrasting personalities. Pioneer life "comes face to face with 20th Century angst," according to the play's description.
Tickets for Cooee are $10. The other full production on Stage II is About Anne..., a work by and starring Salome Jens, 8 PM August 24-26 and 7 PM Aug. 27. The piece focuses on poet Anne Sexton. Tickets are $25.
On the NJ mainstage, the world premiere of Vincent Sessa's The Girl With the High Rouge plays July 27-Aug. 20. Tickets are $25 ($35 for July 28, which includes reception).
The NJ Rep's staged readings of new works are free, but a donation is requested. They run as follows:
• Reckless Abandon (2, 7 PM July 10): Written by Vincent Sessa, directed by Jeffrey Frace. The story of a young woman dying of love. Featuring Dana Benningfield, Meryl Harris, and Marc Chaiet.
• An Unhappy Woman (2, 7 PM July 17): Written by Michael Folie, directed by Nick Montesano. A black romantic comedy about the search for happiness in a futuristic American dystopia. Featuring Kittson O'Neill, Brian O'Halloran, Gigi Jhong, Brent Popolizio, Kathleen Goldpaugh, Adin Alain.
• My Simple City (2, 7 PM July 31): Written by Richard Strand, directed by Jackie Berger. Based on a true event. The story of a mother trapped by a variety of institutions in the early part of this century, imprisoned because she tried to fight a system that took her children away from her without cause.
• African Nights (2, 7 PM Aug. 7): Written and directed by Clint Jeffries. It is 1928 in Colonial Kenya, where wealthy American expatriates and British aristocrats can indulge every pleasure without restraint. Here, a prince of the House of Windsor must finally make the devastating choice between the life he wishes to live, and the way of life demanded by his birth. A historical drama based on real events.
• Slow Fade to Black (2, 7 PM Aug. 14): Written by Brian Mori, directed by Mark Antonio Henderson. A meditation on compromise, centering on a rehearsal of a forgettable scene of a forgettable movie (circa 1936), about the portrayal of blacks on the screen in the early days of the motion picture industry.
• A Mislaid Heaven (2, 7 PM Aug. 28): Written by Carson Grace Becker, directed by Jackie Berger. In a small fishing village on the West coast of Ireland, two young lovers try to find themselves and each other amid the vying politics and passions of their families, the IRA, the Catholic Church, and the strange secret of their common birth. A modern tragedy set on the eve of the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty, this play explores immemorial themes of fate vs. free will, duty vs. desire, and the revolutionary reverberations of love and sacrifice.
The Lumia Theatre is at 179 Broadway in Long Branch, NJ. For reservations or information, call (732) 229-3166 or visit www.njrep.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones