Rope Opens Off-Broadway Dec. 4; Trammell and Williams Are Thrill Killers

News   Rope Opens Off-Broadway Dec. 4; Trammell and Williams Are Thrill Killers Rope, the 1929 Patrick Hamilton play that was first called Rope's End and served as the inspiration for the Alfred Hitchcock film, opens Dec. 4 in a fresh staging by Off-Broadway's Drama Dept.
Sam Trammell (standing) and Chandler Williams in Rope.
Sam Trammell (standing) and Chandler Williams in Rope. Photo by Joan Marcus

Previews began Nov. 21 at midtown's The Zipper, the intimate 240-seat space that keeps actors close to the audience, lending an extra sense of tense claustrophia to Rope. The three-act drama, set in a London flat, famously features a downstage chest that is used as a coffee table during a cocktail party. Inside the coffin-like chest is a dead body, deposited there by young thrill-killers in the play's opening moments.

Will the chest be opened? Will the nervous killers betray their guilt through their twitchy behavior? Will the casual cocktail chatter about murder arouse suspicion?

Drama Dept., True Love Productions, highbrow entertainment and The Zipper present the production, directed by David Warren (Hobson's Choice, Fiction, Barry Manilow's Harmony).

The cast features Christopher Duva (The Elephant Man), Ginifer King (Steel Magnolias), John Lavelle (The Graduate), Lois Markle (True West), Zak Orth (Woody Allen's "Melinda and Melinda," Roundabout's Major Barbara and Misalliance), Sam Trammell (Tony nominated for Ah, Wilderness! at Lincoln Center), Neil Vipond (Strange Interlude) and Chandler Williams ("Kinsey," The Mysteries at CSC).

According to the producers, "Rope tells the story of two young Oxford men who attempt 'the perfect murder' to prove that they are above ordinary people. After killing a college friend, Brandon [played by Sam Trammell] and Granillo [played by Chandler Williams] hide the body in a trunk in their living room and host a cocktail party, serving dinner off of the trunk. The play has many similarities with the Leopold and Loeb murder case from Chicago. Alfred Hitchcock adapted the play (which, originally titled Rope's End, opened at The Theatre Masque in September 1929) for his celebrated 1948 film. In keeping with Drama Dept.'s mission of rediscovering neglected works, this production will mark the first major revival of the play in New York in more than 40 years." Playwright Patrick Hamilton is the English novelist and playwright perhaps best known for Broadway's Angel Street, better known as Hollywood's "Gaslight." His novels include "Monday Morning" (1925) and "Craven House" (1926).

The creative team includes scenic designer James Youmans, costume designer Gregory Gale, lighting designer Jeff Croiter and sound designer Kai Harada. The production stage manager is Adam Grosswirth. Casting by Jodi Collins, CSA.

The Zipper is at 336 W. 37th Street. Performances in the limited eight-week engagement are scheduled through Jan. 15, 2006.

The performance schedule for Rope is Tuesday–Friday at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM.

Christmas Week (Dec. 19-25): Monday–Friday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Friday at 3 PM.

New Year's Week (Dec. 26-Jan. 1. 2006): Monday-Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 3 PM.

Tickets for Rope are priced from $35- $55, and are on sale via Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200), or in-person at The Zipper Theatre box office.

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Drama Dept. is the respected downtown company that breathed new life into classics and premiered new works. It has found a new home at the funky Zipper Theatre in midtown Manhattan. Known for As Bees in Honey Drown, Uncle Tom's Cabin, As Thousands Cheer and Shanghai Moon, DD will partner with The Zipper to stage three works, beginning with Rope.

Drama Dept. "was conceived in a cheap rental car during the summer of 1994 and birthed in a Sardi's banquet room as a non-profit theatre collective of actors, writers, directors, designers and stage managers." More than a decade after founding the company, the award-winning team of artistic director Douglas Carter Beane and executive director Michael S. Rosenberg "continue to nurture their vision of a community theatre in a professional theatre community." Drama Dept.'s mission is the development and production of new and neglected works of American theatre. To date, this partnership of art and commerce has resulted in the production of 19 acclaimed works including Douglas Carter Beane's As Bees in Honey Drown, David & Amy Sedaris' The Book of Liz, Isaac Mizrahi's Les Mizrahi, the Moss Hart-Irving Berlin musical As Thousands Cheer, Charles Busch's Shanghai Moon and the Tribeca Theater Festival with Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, plus The Downtown Plays, a production of nine short plays by such writers as Neil LaBute, Kenneth Lonergan, Paul Rudnick, David Henry Hwang and Wendy Wasserstein.

The staging of Rope is a commercial Off-Broadway run.

The Zipper is a renovated zipper factory that has featured theatrical productions, special events, comedy and live music since its opening in 2001. Its residents have recently included Bebe Neuwirth, Roger Rees and Ann Reinking (Here Lies Jenny); Alan Cumming, Stephen Spinella and Vivienne Westwood (Elle); Barry Humphries (Sir Les Patterson Unzipped) ; Henry Rollins (Caught in the Zipper); Lypsinka (The Passion of the Crawford); Sarah Silverman (Jesus is Magic); BETTY and Michael Greif (BETTY Rules); as well as Rosie O'Donnell, Lewis Black, Bob Balaban, Mark Lundholm, John Cameron Mitchell, the Scissor Sisters, Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel, Euan Morton, Tom Wopat, Michael Cerveris, Adam Pascal and Marshall Crenshaw. Once Around the Sun, a new musical, was the last occupant of the funky space, which uses old automobile seats in the L-shaped seating area.

For more information, visit www.zippertheater.com or www.DramaDept.org.

True Love Productions was formed in 2001 by Jeanne Donovan Fisher and Laurie Williams. True Love's Broadway credits include Deborah Warner's Medea and the Tony nominated The Retreat From Moscow. Regionally they have been represented by The Mambo Kings: The Musical at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre. Past Off-Broadway productions include Charles L. Mee's True Love at The Zipper; Vienna: Lusthaus (Revisited) at New York Theater Workshop; The SITI Company’s bobrauschenbergamerica at Brooklyn Academy of Music; Marty Moran's The Tricky Part at the McGinn Cazale and Shockheaded Peter at the Little Shubert. Past Off-Off Broadway productions include Suitcase and Everything Will Be Different at Soho Rep and Turning at St. Ann's Warehouse.

After two years of existence, highbrow entertainment has an eclectic selection of credits, from the documentary film "Inside the Bubble," about the Kerry campaign; to fiction with "Milk and Honey" by Joe Maggio (2004) and "The Tollbooth" by Debra Kirchner (for release February 2006); to the stage with Dario Fo's A Tale of a Tiger at 59E59.

Ginifer King, Zak Orth and John Lavelle in <i>Rope</i>.
Ginifer King, Zak Orth and John Lavelle in Rope. Photo by Joan Marcus