In Trumpery, opening Dec. 5, according to Atlantic production notes, "It is 1858. Charles Darwin (Michael Cristofer) struggles to finish 'The Origin of Species,' and give the world his theory of natural selection, while coping with family illness and his own loss of faith. Meanwhile, halfway around the world, an unknown explorer named Wallace (Manoel Felciano) is about to come up with the exact same theory. Both vibrantly comic and deeply moving, Trumpery examines what it means to live in a Darwinian universe from the point of view of the man who discovered the idea."
In an author's note in the Playbill, Parnell writes, "I first read about Darwin and Wallace's relationship over ten years ago, in David Quammen's wonderful book 'The Song of the Dodo.' The story of Wallace's travels, and of his independent discovery of the theory of natural selection, led me to read a more condemnatory book about Darwin's actions, Arnold Brackman's 'A Delicate Arrangement,' published many years before. Brackman's book is certainly the most extreme in its view; in the years since — and since the happy rediscovery of Wallace himself in several recent biographies — the question of how guilty or not Darwin was has been discussed and argued. That he felt guilty — founded or not — is clear from his own letters and comments. But then, in Darwin, guilt ran deep."
In creating the play, Parnell is not writing strict chronological biography: "I have telescoped several events in Darwin's life."
David Esbjornson directs the play by the playwright who gave us the stage adaptation of John Irving's The Cider House Rules (honored with an award by the American Theatre Critics Association) and The Rise and Rose of Daniel Rocket. Parnell's plays also include Flaubert's Latest, An Imaginary Life, QED (at Lincoln Center Theater, Alan Alda starred as physicist Richard Feynmann), The Sorrows of Stephen, Romance Language, Scooter Thomas Makes It to the Top of the World and Hyde in Hollywood.
The Trumpery cast includes Michael Countryman (House and Garden, Night Must Fall, A Few Good Men), Neal Huff (Take Me Out), Timothy Deenihan, Jack Tartaglia, Bianca Amato (Broadway's The Coast of Utopia), Peter Maloney (Atlantic's The Voysey Inheritance, The Room) and Paris Rose Yates (The Public Theater's King Lear). Cristofer is the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright known for penning The Shadow Box, and screenplays to "Falling in Love" and "The Witches of Eastwick." As an actor, he has performed in over a hundred plays at Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, Roundabout Theater and many others.
Felciano was Tony-nominated for playing Tobias in the recent Sweeney Todd.
The design team features scenic design by Tony Award winner Santo Loquasto, costume design by 15-time Tony Award nominee Jane Greenwood, lighting design by James Ingalls and sound design by Obadiah Eaves.
The limited engagement of Trumpery will continue to Dec. 30, playing Tuesday through Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM.
Atlantic Theater Company Main Stage at the Linda Gross Theater is located at 336 West 20th Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues). Tickets for main-stage productions are $55 and are available by calling Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or by visiting www.ticketcentral.com.
For more information, visit www.atlantictheater.org.