Meadow Brook Theatre in Metro Detroit offers its second world premiere in two seasons, March 15-April 9, with Chagall's Arabian Nights, an image-rich fantasia about artist Marc Chagall creating his famous "Arabian Nights" illustrations.
Playwright-in-residence Karim Alrawi explores themes of loss, home, art and love as Chagall approaches his canvas. The "Arabian Nights" adventure tales are woven with Chagall's journey of reconciliation and healing, according to production notes.
The play is set after World War II when Chagall (played by Robert Grossman) grieves the loss of his beloved wife, Bella (played by Sunita Param). Despondent and lonely, he falls in with a younger woman named Virginia (Nedra Gallegos), but he wonders if can he truly fall in love again. With the loss of Bella, Chagall questions everything.
Art has become a way to make a living, an idea the younger Chagall (played by Robert Morgan) would have rejected, believing instead that art is the work of, and for, the soul.
In the context of loss of home (his native Russia, war-scarred Europe, and in the Middle East) Chagall muses: "Maybe, if an old Jew like me can paint the 'Arabian Nights,' then there is still hope for the world." Director Debra Wicks, working in collaboration with her playwright husband, Alrawi, is creating a stage world described as "mystical" -- larger-than-life puppets, inspired by Chagall's work, represent genies, mermaids, flying horses and more.
Official opening is March 18. Designers are Peter W. Hicks (set), Kerro Knox III (lighting), Barbara Jenks (costumes), Brett Rominger (sound), Kathryn Wagner (puppets).
The cast also includes Norman Duford, Nina Kircher and puppet operators Karey Hart, Chad Gearing and Jackie Floyd.
Playwright Alrawi was born in Alexandria, Egypt. His work was staged in England where he was playwright-in-residence at the Royal Court Theatre and literary manager of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. He has won several awards in North America including The Canadian Theatre National Playwriting Award and the Detroit Free Press Theatre Excellence Award for 1998-99's A Gift of Glory, about Diego Rivera's famous murals at The Detroit Institute of Arts.
Tickets are $19.50-$35. Meadow Brook Theatre, Michigan's only LORT theatre, is located in Wilson Hall on the campus of Oakland University, in Rochester, MI, 15 miles north of Detroit.
For ticket information on Chagall's Arabian Nights, call (248) 377 3300.
-- By Kenneth Jones