Shirley Knight and Diane Venora Are Ensler's Necessary Targets, as OB Show Opens

News   Shirley Knight and Diane Venora Are Ensler's Necessary Targets, as OB Show Opens Eve Ensler's latest work, Necessary Targets, which debuted at CT's Hartford Stage, follows in the footsteps of the now famous The Vagina Monologues and opens at a home Off-Broadway. Producers Harriet Leve and Willa Shalit have brought the Bosnia-based, socio-political drama to Off-Broadway's Variety Arts, where it started previews Feb. 14 and officially opens Feb. 28.
Mirjana Jokovic, Diane Venora and Alyssa Bresnahan in Necessary Targets.
Mirjana Jokovic, Diane Venora and Alyssa Bresnahan in Necessary Targets. (Photo by Photo by Joan Marcus)

Eve Ensler's latest work, Necessary Targets, which debuted at CT's Hartford Stage, follows in the footsteps of the now famous The Vagina Monologues and opens at a home Off-Broadway. Producers Harriet Leve and Willa Shalit have brought the Bosnia-based, socio-political drama to Off-Broadway's Variety Arts, where it started previews Feb. 14 and officially opens Feb. 28.

The Off-Broadway cast features Shirley Knight (as J.S.) and Catherine Kellner (Melissa), alongside Diane Venora (Zlata), Alyssa Bresnahan (Jelena), Sally Parrish (who took over for Rosemary Murphy in rehearsals) (Azra), and Maria Thayer (Nuna), all of whom appeared in the Hartford staging. New to the New York cast is Mirjana Jokovic, taking over for Marika Dominczyk as Seada. Hartford Stage artistic director Michael Wilson again directs.

Designing the show, which is produced by Harriet Newman Leve, Willa Shalit and Bob Boyett, are Howell Binkley (lighting), Jeff Cowie (set), John Gromada (sound) and Susan Hilferty (costumes).

Targets is based on interviews Ensler conducted, Anna Devere Smith-like, with women who survived the atrocities and warfare which reigned during the 1990s in the states which made up the former Yugoslavia — a conflict which was known for the use of sexual violence against women as a war tactic. From these conversations, Ensler shaped a drama about two American women who, somewhat like the playwright herself, travel to Bosnia to help female victims confront their experiences. One character is a Park Avenue psychiatrist, the other a young writer. Targets was developed in Hartford Stage's Brand:NEW festival.

Knight is a veteran of The Vagina Monologues and also appeared on Broadway in Horton Foote's The Young Man From Atlanta, while Venora starred opposite Liev Schreiber in Hamlet (and once played Hamlet herself) and opposite Kelsey Grammer in Macbeth, and Murphy was last seen as one of the theatrical retirees in Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings. For tickets ($60) and information on Necessary Targets at the Variety Arts Theatre, 110 Third Ave., call (212) 239-6200.

—By Robert Simonson