Signature artistic director James Houghton directs the world premiere piece, an exploration of the life — and lasting influence on artists like Irwin — of American pantomime star George L. Fox, a 19th-century actor known for his wildly popular Humpty-Dumpty show. Fox is all but forgotten by modern audiences.
Performances play the Signature's Off-Broadway home at the Peter Norton Space, 555 W. 42nd Street in Manhattan. Mr. Fox is the final production in the all-Irwin 2003-04 season.
Opening is April 13. Performances began March 24.
The first two productions of Signature's Bill Irwin were The Harlequin Studies and The Regard Evening, and both were extended due to popular demand.
According to production notes, Mr. Fox: A Rumination "is a reflection on the life and work of one of theatre's most celebrated clowns, George L. Fox (1825-1877). Fox delighted audiences from the Bowery to Broadway with his raucous and ribald performances, but he could not escape his greatest success, the white-face role of 'Humpty Dumpty.' Mr. Fox: A Rumination is one clown's rumination on another, on the life of a performer, and on the act of performance itself." Calling the show a rumination allows Irwin a lot of room to create the space, mood, action and story he wants. Irwin paints his face white, powders it down and jumps into the Fox's world, full of backstage tensions, racial ironies, financial risks, artistic rivalries (with his brother, no less) and cutthroat producers. Irwin purposely rejects the idea of a well-made play to create the sort of energy that was so abundant in the days when "entertainments" dominated live pop culture in the United States.
The cast includes Bianca Amato, Jason Butler Harner, Geoff Hoyle, Marc Damon Johnson, Peter Maloney and Richard Poe. Set design is by Christine Jones, costume design by Elizabeth Caitlin Ward, lighting design by James Vermeulen, sound design by Brett R. Jarvis.
Music for the production is by Loren Toolajian.
Single tickets for Mr. Fox: A Rumination are priced at $55. For subscription and ticket information, please call (212) 244-PLAY. For additional information, visit www.signaturetheatre.org.