Music-Infused 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, with Augesen and Hayden, Begins at A.C.T.

News   Music-Infused 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, with Augesen and Hayden, Begins at A.C.T. René Augesen and Tony Award nominee Michael Hayden are the forbidden lovers of American Conservatory Theater's new production of John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, beginning June 5 under the direction of A.C.T. artistic director Carey Perloff.
Michael Hayden and Ren
Michael Hayden and Ren

The production, through July 6 in San Francisco, includes live music composed and performed by San Francisco "avant-baroque" underground cellist Bonfire Madigan Shive. A.C.T. core acting company member Augesen and Carousel Broadway star Hayden portray brother and sister Annabella and Giovanni, who are romantically drawn to each other.

The production is billed as "a fresh encounter with a startling, rarely performed play written in the 1630s."

The staging continues A.C.T.'s tradition "of boldly reworking classics from a raw, edgy perspective." The post-Shakespeare English-language classic "depicts a seamy world of violence, sex, and betrayal — yet shockingly subverts the Jacobean revenge form to plumb the depths of universal questions of life and death, morality and faith."

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"Many consider this play to be like Romeo and Juliet, but with a much darker hue," Perloff said in a statement. "The play has tremendous power in its message, and feels strikingly modern despite being written almost four centuries ago." The production will be "inventively staged in a deconstructed baroque cathedral." The Parma, Italy-set story "explores a deadly erotic obsession between siblings Giovanni and Annabella," according to A.C.T. "With clear and gripping poetry, Ford paints a decadent landscape of greed and corruption, helmed by a vicious, amoral clergy. Living with no moral guidance or spiritual grounding, and in a society where women are possessions hawked to the highest bidder, the pair is left to their own dangerous devices — with brutal consequences."

Perloff observed, "There is a lot of ambivalence in the play about what is 'normal' in a toxic society, and it's paradoxical because while we know they are siblings, their love seems almost pure next to the corruption around them."

Hayden, a Juilliard-trained actor, earned a 2001 Tony Award nomination for his role in Broadway's Judgment at Nuremberg. He also played Billy Bigelow in Nicholas Hytner's 1992 National Theatre production of Carousel, and later went on to reprise that performance on Broadway in 1994. Other credits include Henry IV (Lincoln Center Theater), Merrily We Roll Along (The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), All My Sons (Roundabout Theatre), Sweet Bird of Youth (Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC) and Playboy of the Western World (Guthrie Theatre).

A.C.T. associate artist and core acting company member Augesen, winner of a 2007 Bay Area Theatre Critics' Circle Award, recently appeared in A.C.T.'s The Rainmaker and Brainpeople, and her credits include Celebration, The Room, The Beard of Avon, Buried Child, Night and Day, A Doll's House, The Voysey Inheritance (also at Kansas City Repertory Theatre), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Luminescence Dating (at Magic Theatre) and Hedda Gabler. Augesen is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

The 'Tis Pity cast also includes Steven Anthony Jones (Bonaventura); Jack Willis (Cardinal); Michael Earle Fajardo (Soranzo); Robert Sicular (Florio); Warren David Keith (Donato); Jud Williford (Grimaldi); Gregory Wallace (Bergetto); James Carpenter (Richardetto); Anthony Fusco (Vasques); Stephen Barker Turner (Poggio); Susan Gibney (Hippolita); Kelsey Venter (Philotis); Sharon Lockwood (Putana); Rod Gnapp, Kevin Rolston and Amanda Sykes (Ensemble).

The creative team includes Walt Spangler (sets), Candice Donnelly (costumes), Robert Wierzel (lights) and Jake Rodriguez (sound). A.C.T. is located at 415 Geary Street in San Francisco. For more information call A.C.T. Ticket Services at (415) 749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org.

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