A tale of strangers in a strange land makes its American premiere Jan. 15, when Further Than the Furthest Thing begins previews at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage I.
Zinnie Harris' play begins on a remote island off the coast of South Africa. "When a volcanic eruption forces the evacuation of the small group of islanders to an industrial town in South Hampton, the close knit family of refugees struggles to retain their customs in an unfamiliar world," according to production notes. "As the play unfolds, old wounds are opened and a cataclysmic secret is revealed. The play is loosely based on the real life experiences of the inhabitants of Tristan Da Cunha who, in 1961, were forced to leave their home while the British government used the island for darker purposes."
Jennifer Dundas, Dan Futterman, Peter Gerety, Robert Hogan and Jenny Sterlin populate the staging, directed by Neil Pepe. The play was previously seen in a U.K. production co-produced by the Tron Theatre Company, Glasgow, and the Royal National Theatre. Official opening at the nonprofit Off Broadway MTC is Feb. 5.
Designers are Loy Arcenas (scenic), Laura Bauer and Bobby Tilley (costume), James F. Ingalls (lighting), Scott Myers (sound). Stephen Gabis is dialect coach (the play has characters speaking a unique island dialect).
Dundas appeared in Lincoln Center's Arcadia, Futterman was seen in Angels in America on Broadway and the film, "The Bird Cage," Gerety was last seen in New York as Launce in The New York Shakespeare Festival's Two Gentlemen of Verona, Hogan acted in Broadway's A Few Good Men and Williamstown's world premiere of William Kennedy's Grand View, Sterlin is an English actress who trained and worked in Great Britain (her U.S. credits include East is East at MTC. Playwright Harris graduated from Hull University in 1994 with an MA in Theatre Production. Since then, she has concentrated on writing for the theatre. In 1995, she was commissioned by the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh for Sharp Shorts. In 1996, she was invited to become a member of the Scottish Arts Council Workshop led by Tom McGrath. She then wrote and directed M'Lady Malade at the Netherbow Theatre, Edinburgh. In December 1996, her play By Many Wounds was given a performed reading at the Traverse Theatre. She is currently under commission to Theatre Workshop Edinburgh and the Royal National Theatre Studio.
Pepe is the sought-after director whose credits include American Buffalo by David Mamet starring William H. Macy (Donmar Warehouse, London and Atlantic Theater Company); The Beginning of August by Tom Donaghy starring Mary Steenburgen (South Coast Rep, Atlantic Theater Company); Refuge by Jessica Goldberg at Playwrights Horizons. Other recent directing credits include Wolf Lullaby by Hilary Bell, Mojo by Jez Butterworth (Drama League Award nominee), Clean by Edwin Sanchez, Shaker Heights by Quincy Long (Outer Critics Circle Award nominee) and more. He has been the Artistic Director of the Atlantic Theater Company since 1992. As an actor he has appeared in many productions at the Atlantic and other New York theatres.
Tickets are $55 and can be reserved by calling CityTix at (212) 581-1212. Ask about $20 student tickets. MTC Stage I is at City Center, 131 W. 55th Street. Visit Manhattan TheatreClub.com.
Manhattan Theatre Club is on a roll: In 2001-2002, it sent both The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and Proof to Broadway. Both shows are hits that still continue. MTC broke ground recently for the renovation of the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway, which will expand the operation to three Manhattan venues committed to new work. The Biltmore location means MTC works there will be Tony Award eligible. Opening is set for 2003.
MTC is presenting Worth Street Theatre Company's production of Christopher Shinn's Four on Stage II, beginning Jan. 29.
— By Kenneth Jones