The Elevation of Thieves, third-place winner in the international plays competition sponsored by the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation in Athens, begins previews May 6 for its world premiere production, by Denver Center Theatre Company.
In Nagle Jackson's darkly comic script, a quiet European town is turned upside-down when its annual religious pageant of atonement is turned into a TV spectacular. The Muslim population soon wishes for inclusion in the Christian pageant and the town leaders become caught between the townspeople and the network. The local sports hero fights to get a leading role in the Easter ritual.
This is the second world premiere this month by DCTC, representing the mainstage entries in the US WEST TheatreFest. Staged readings of new works happen in June, rounding out the TheatreFest.
Coinciding with the May 6 first preview of Elevation of Thieves, Richard Hellesen's Kingdom officially opens at the DCTC's Space Theatre. The Elevation of Thieves officially opens May 13, after previews, at The Stage Theatre. It continues to June 5. Both plays, as it turns out, are dark, quirky allegories about larger issues.
The country and city in Jackson's script are not named, said publicist Chris Wiger of DCTC, making the playwright's points about social, religious, racial and economic conflicts more universal and potent. Jackson, former artistic director of the McCarter Theatre, directs his own script on scenic and lighting designer Pavel Dobrusky's set (with a large, slanted, grass-covered disc representing the pageant's hillside site). Costumes are by Kevin Copenhaver, sound is by David R. White.
The ensemble includes Kathleen M. Brady, Tony Church, Patricia Dalen, Anthony De Fonte, Sarah Flanagan, Douglas Harmsen, Jamie Horton and John Hutton, Steven Memran, Anthony Powell and Corliss Preston.
Playwright-director Jackson was artistic director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ., from 1979 to 1990. He is the first American to win the Onassis Foundation International Playwriting Award. He took third prize in the competition, whose mandate was for work about "problems facing mankind at the turn of the new century."
His play, The Quick-Change Room, had its world premiere by DCTC in 1995 and played New York City's INTAR Theatre in 1997. His Taking Leave was presented by DCTC in 1997-98 and was nominated for the American Theatre Critics New Play Award.
The Denver Center Theatre Company earned a 1998 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. The company performs in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, which houses four spaces.
Elevation of Thieves tickets range $23-$34. For information, call (303) 893-4100 or (800) 641-1222.
-- By Kenneth Jones