Several of the world's leading theatre companies will bring to Chicago "their highly contemporary, inventive interpretations of O'Neill's dramas to plumb the depths of this important playwright."
The visiting companies are Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Companhia Triptal of Brazil and The Wooster Group of New York City.
As previously announced, a core production in the January-to-March O'Neill celebration will be Falls' new American staging of Desire Under the Elms (1924) featuring Brian Dennehy, in January 2009, in the Goodman's Albert space.
The O'Neill Festival runs January through March 2009 in both the Albert and Owen Theatres at the Goodman complex. Still to be announced in the Festival is an additional Chicago-based production, as well as ancillary programming.
Falls and Dennehy have previously brought O'Neill to fresh life with productions of The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, A Touch of the Poet and Hughie. (Their Hughie will be seen at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada this summer.) About the visiting companies and plays:
Toneelgroep Amsterdam's Rouw Siert Electra (Mourning Becomes Electra) directed by Ivo Van Hove, featuring the original Dutch cast, presented in Dutch with English supertitles. U.S. premiere, in the Owen. "The Netherlands' largest repertory theatre brings its sexy, highly contemporary production of Rouw Siert Electra (Mourning Becomes Electra)…Ivo van Hove, the Toneelgroep's artistic director, reassembles his original Dutch cast…" Based on Aeschylus' Orestean trilogy, O'Neill's play "is an American family tragedy, set on the Mannon family estate. Radiating an electrifying intensity, the Toneelgroep's production uses multi-media presence to create a once-in-a-lifetime theatregoing experience."
Companhia Triptal of Brazil's Homens ao Mar (Sea Men), including productions of three one-act plays Cardiff (Bound East for Cardiff), Zona De Guerra (In the Zone), Longa Viagem de Volta Pra Casa (The Long Voyage Home) directed by Andre Garolli, presented in rep in Portuguese over three weekends in the Owen. U.S. premiere. "Companhia Triptal brings three out of four of O'Neill's cycle of 'Sea Plays'" written between 1914 and 1917 and "based on real experiences of the still very young author when he served in the merchant marines and traveled to Central and South America and southern Africa." The cycle "introduces many of the themes that O'Neill explores in his later full-length dramas: loneliness, death, hope and friendship — as well as his own obsession with the sea."
The Wooster Group's The Emperor Jones directed by Elizabeth LeCompte and featuring Kate Valk (in the title role), Ari Fliakos and Scott Shepherd. A Chicago premiere playing one week in the Owen. The New York-based The Wooster Group is "known for its radical stagings of classical texts." This 60-minute interpretation premiered in 1993 and over the next 15 years received critical and popular acclaim throughout the U.S. and Europe. A rarely produced American masterpiece widely considered to be the work that launched Eugene O'Neill's career, The Emperor Jones uses a mix of realism and expressionism to tell the story of Brutus Jones, an African-American former Pullman porter with a checkered past. Having escaped a life sentence in prison for murder, Brutus establishes himself as the 'self-appointed emperor' of a West Indian Island. The narrative follows his flight from both the natives he has exploited and his own haunted past."
Artistic director Falls said in a statement, "Over the past two decades and four landmark productions, this 20th century definitive playwright has been a source of constant inspiration for me. I am proud to give Chicago audiences the chance to experience him in the way he is being produced today: through bold, exciting interpretations and executions of plays from the world's leading theatre companies. Through mesmerizing productions that are sometimes sexy, challenging and outrageous, the Toneelgroep, The Wooster Group and Companhia Triptal deliver a heightened perspective and expanded understanding of O'Neill’s genius."
Tickets for most programs and events of the Eugene O'Neill Festival will go on sale fall 2008. Subscribers receive priority ordering privileges; season subscriptions, which include Desire Under the Elms, are now onsale at www.GoodmanTheatre.Org/Subscribe or by calling (312) 443-3800.