Something's Rotten in Chicago Morgue, in World Premiere of Jazz-Flecked Stone My Heart

News   Something's Rotten in Chicago Morgue, in World Premiere of Jazz-Flecked Stone My Heart The world premiere of Cincinnati playwright Joseph McDonough's comedy-drama Stone My Heart continues at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park to April 30. Performances began April 1.

Billed as "a compelling story about the destructive forces of obsession, passion and power," the play is the winner of the Mickey Kaplan New American Play Prize, an award given by the Playhouse.

Playhouse producing artistic director Edward Stern directs the "jazz-infused tale of love and evil that follows the intertwined lives of employees in Chicago's morgue." In it, "the stammering and introverted Robby is secretly in love with Jessica, the daughter of the city's recently deceased chief coroner. But Jessica herself has been carrying on a clandestine relationship with Marcus, who has succeeded her father in his position. Chief Deputy Zach fails to earn any respect from the other coroners because he's seen as a drunk and a political appointment."

Into this mix, "the manipulative Terrence seizes all opportunities to use their desires and secrets for his own gain. A longtime friend of Jessica, he believed he was being groomed for the chief coroner's position and feels the only reason he was passed over is because Marcus is black. Terrence promises to help Robby win Jessica's heart, but as his intricate web of deceit spins out of control, no one can be certain who to trust or what to believe."

Edward Stern said in notes that there are numerous reasons he chose Joseph McDonough for this year's play prize: "The characters in Stone My Heart are totally compelling. Joe has created a spiral that gets tighter and tighter — with all the things that are said and unsaid, with the characters' abilities to communicate or not communicate. Plus the subject, while intense, is punctuated by such dark, rich humor."

The play is accented with original jazz music composed by University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music dean Douglas Lowry. "Music is associated with each character's persona, and the improvisational nature of jazz lends itself to the solos and duets that the characters play against each other," according to production notes. Playwright Joseph McDonough is a Cincinnati native whose previous Playhouse productions include the 2003 world premiere One. He also has worked for several years with Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati where his play Wayfarer's Rest is being given its world premiere beginning April 19. In New York, he is an active member of the Playwrights Workshop at the Players Club and is also a member of New River Dramatists in Healing Springs, NC, where he has had residencies the past two summers.

The cast for Stone My Heart includes several Playhouse veterans including Tim Altmeyer as Zach, Sean Haberle as Terrence, Todd Lawson as Robby and Kevyn Morrow as Marcus. Lanie MacEwan makes her Playhouse debut as Jessica.

Other members of the production team include Joseph P. Tilford (set designer), Claudia Stephens (costume designer) and Thomas C. Hase (lighting designer). The stage manager is Andrea L. Shell.

Performances play the Playhouse's Thompson Shelterhouse space. For more information about the Tony Award-honored Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, visit www.cincyplay.com.

From Left: Sean Haberle and Todd Lawson in <i>Stone My Heart</i>.
From Left: Sean Haberle and Todd Lawson in Stone My Heart. Photo by Sandy Underwood
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