NYC Premiere of Asphalt Kiss Among Celebration of Works by Brazil's Nelson Rodrigues, Oct. 7

News   NYC Premiere of Asphalt Kiss Among Celebration of Works by Brazil's Nelson Rodrigues, Oct. 7 The New York premiere of late Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues' The Asphalt Kiss — about a public kiss turned into a major scandal — begins Oct. 7 at 59E59 Theaters.
Charles Turner (top) and James Martinez in The Asphalt Kiss.
Charles Turner (top) and James Martinez in The Asphalt Kiss. Photo by Carol Rosegg

The Off-Off-Broadway staging of the play is part of a monthlong celebration of Rodrigues' work, marking 25 years since his death. The month includes several play readings plus screenings of his award-winning film "All Nudity Shall Be Punished."

The Asphalt Kiss is presented in an English translation by Alex Ladd, and directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde, produced by Lord Strange Company. Performances continue to Oct. 29.

"As a man lies dying from a hit-and-run accident on a busy Rio street, a male stranger comes to his aid and fulfills his dying wish for a kiss," according to production notes. "An unscrupulous reporter, eager to feed a scandal hungry public, witnesses this kiss and turns a simple act of human compassion into salacious front-page news. While the Good Samaritan tries to hide from the tabloid spotlight, his entire life is turned into a media circus, which culminates to a shocking conclusion."

Charles Turner leads the cast, which also features Joe Capozzi, Arlene Chico-Lugo, Paul de Sousa, Jessica Kaye, Paul Klementowicz, James Martinez and Dawn McGee.

Playwright Nelson Rodrigues was born in Recife, Brazil, in 1912, the fifth child in a family of 14 siblings, according to production notes. His father struggled as a newspaper reporter for years, and when Nelson was four his family moved to Rio de Janeiro hoping for better times. There the family's fortunes changed as Mario Rodrigues worked his way up Rio's cutthroat newspaper industry until he was able to found his own newspaper. At 13, Nelson began working at his father's newspaper, and by 14 he was writing his own column. He would become a popular sport writer, crime writer and columnist. Subsequent family tragedies would inform Rodrigues' writings, which include novels and plays. His first play, Woman Without Sin (about a society lady who runs away with her black chauffer), shocked and divided Brazilian audiences in 1941. His second play, The Wedding Gown, is considered a watershed in Brazilian theatre. In it, Rodrigues overlapped moments in time and place in order to create his own vision of reality.

From 1941 until 1965 Rodrigues wrote 15 full-length plays and would write two more later in life. His plays are frequently divided in three groups, according to production notes: psychological plays, mythical plays and Carioca tragedies.

In his Carioca tragedies Rodrigues explored the lives of Rio's lower-middleclass. The supreme example of this genre is The Asphalt Kiss.

Rodrigues died in Rio de Janeiro on Dec. 21, 1980.

Director Sarah Cameron Sunde is the associate director of New Georges, the Obie-winning theatre company now in its 13th season.

Alex Ladd (English translation) is co-founder and artistic director of The Lord Strange Company. He has produced five plays for LSC (formerly The Lord Strange Troupe), the latest one being Chekhov's Rifle at The Greenwich Street Theater, starring Austin Pendleton.

The design team features sets by Lauren Helpern (Obie Award-winner for Bug), lighting by Traci Klainer, costumes by Wade Leboissonniere and sound by Jeremy Lee. Choreography is by The Kinesis Project's artistic director Melissa Riker and dramaturgy by Marie-Louise Miller.

The performance schedule in 99-seat Theater B at 59E59 Theaters is Wednesday-Saturday at 8 PM, with added performances Oct. 9 at 3 PM and Oct. 11 at 8 PM. Opening night is Oct. 11 at 8 PM.

59E59 Theaters is at 59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues. Tickets are $15 ($10.50 for 59E59 members) and are available by calling Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or online at www.ticketcentral.com. For more information on the festival, visit www.nrfestival.com.