The Colleagues Theatre Company, the New York City troupe devoted to plays about the "mature life experience," presents Swiss playwright Max Frisch's The Firebugs starring Laurence Luckinbill, June 5-29 at the Neighborhood Playhouse.
Since the show was announced in April, some casting and creative team changes have taken place. Joe Grifasi replaces Roy B. Steinberg as director of the dark comedy, which has a translation by Michael Bullock. The Firebugs was first produced in 1958 in Zurich, and then presented at London's Royal Court Theatre in 1961 under Lindsay Anderson's direction. It was also presented Off-Broadway and at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. The play is now billed as "a striking and timely dark comedy about how evil can be denied and ignored until it is too late."
In it, "a chorus of firemen bear witness to the trusting yet foolish actions of the prosperous Gottlieb Biedermann as he invites two strangers into his home. He is a living example of Chico Marx's classic inquiry: 'Who are you going to believe — me or your own eyes?'"
The cast includes Ruby Holbrook, Herbert Rubens and Don Amendolia, with Shannon Emerick, Michael Lipton and Emily Mitchell. One preview plays June 5 before the June 6 benefit opening.
The Colleagues Theatre Company was founded in 1996 by Catherine Wolf to commission and produce plays that celebrate the richness of the mature life experience; to provide performance opportunities for seasoned artists, and to create a two-year technical training program in theatrical craftsmanship for gifted high school graduates from underserved communities. In keeping with the mission of The Colleagues Theatre Company, 8 of the 13 cast members in The Firebugs are over the age of 50. Andrew Donovan, Hollis Huston, Robert Ierardi, Peter James Kelsch, Nate Lombardi and John Mishalski play The Firemen. Past Colleagues productions include The Understanding, the world premieres of George Bamford's Irish Strawberries and Gary Richards' Second Summer. Earlier this season, Colleagues staged The Madwoman of Chaillot, with Kim Hunter, Anne Jackson and Alvin Epstein.
Luckinbill appeared on Broadway in the current revival production of Cabaret, and A Fair Country, Chapter Two, The Shadow Box (Tony Award nomination), Poor Murderer, Past Tense and more. He is also known for Clarence Darrow Tonight!
Frisch's play, Andorra, about anti-Semitism, seen in a staging by Theatre for a New Audience this season, similarly shows how ordinary people respond to extraordinary circumstances.
Designers for The Firebugs are Jeff Fontaine (lighting), Rachel Chancey (sound), Cyrus E. Newitt (set) and Karin Beatty (costumes).
The Neighborhood Playhouse is at 340 E. 54th Street (between First and Second Avenues). The June 6 performance is a gala benefit for the company, with all seats $100. Tickets to other performances are $19, with TDF vouchers accepted. For reservations to all performances call (212) 369-0799.
— By Kenneth Jones