Charlayne Woodard will play a contemporary Hester in the world premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks' modern take on Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," In the Blood, beginning performances Nov. 2 at the Public Theater.
The new work is described as "the complex and provocative story of an unwed mother's struggle to raise her children while holding onto her own belief in love." It's considered a "riff" on the Hawthorne classic about a woman scorned (for adultery) by her community. No official opening date has been determined; performances continue to Dec. 5.
The cast, directed by David Esbjornson, includes Rob Campbell (Public's As You Like It), Gail Grate (Public's The America Play), Bruce MacVittie, Reggie Montgomery (The America Plays) and Dierdre O'Connell (Signature's Mud). Woodard is known for her roles in Broadway's Ain't Misbehavin', the Public's Twelfth Night, and her one-woman shows, Neat and Pretty Fire.
Designers for the production at the Susan Stein Shiva Theater are Narelle Sissons (scenic), Elizabeth Hope Clancy (costume), Jane Cox (lighting) and Don DiNicola (sound).
Director Esbjornson directed The Ride Down Mt. Morgan for The Public, and recently staged Maria Irene Fornes' Mud and Drowning for the Signature Theatre. Parks' plays include Venus and The America Play (both staged by the Public), Devotees in the Garden of Love, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom and The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World. She penned the screenplay for Spike Lee's "Girl 6."
In the Blood tickets are $45 and go on sale Oct. 22. The Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival is at 425 Lafayette St. Call (212) 239-6200 for information.
-- By Kenneth Jones