The Exchange — Formerly Jean Cocteau Rep — Kicks Off with Neilson's Realism at Theater Row

News   The Exchange — Formerly Jean Cocteau Rep — Kicks Off with Neilson's Realism at Theater Row Jean Cocteau Repertory starts anew with a new name — The Exchange — and the North American premiere of Realism by Anthony Neilson, which begins previews April 15 at Theatre Row.

Realism runs through May 13, and will be performed in rep with Jump! by Lisa McGee, running April 20-May 19. The Exchange's artistic director Ari Edelson directs the two plays, both of which are from the U.K. The shows are the first for the company since it exited its former Bouwerie Lane Theater home.

The cast of the plays includes Bree Elrod (My Name is Rachel Corrie), Jordan Gelber (Avenue Q), Ali Marsh, Stephen Plunkett, Kathryn Rossetter (45 Seconds from Broadway), Herbert Rubens (45 Seconds from Broadway), Tim Spears, Daniel Talbott (Marat/Sade at The Classical Theatre of Harlem), Sarah Grace Wilson (The Story) and Meredith Zinner.

The plays' design includes sets by Antje Ellerman, sound by Bart Fasbender, lighting by Ben Stanton and costumes by Oana Botez-Ban.

Jean Cocteau Rep — founded in 1971 by the late Eve Adamson, who served as the artistic director for 18 years — has been through a rocky period recently. In 2004 some ensemble members quit to form the Phoenix Ensemble Theatre. Other developments include the doubling of the rent at the Bouwerie Lane, the company's partnership with the New Orleans-based company EgoPo and the Catskill Mountain Foundation, the dismissal of many resident ensemble members, missed payroll payments and a 2006 production of Genet's The Maids that prompted complaints from the playwright's estate.

The Exchange will be dedicated to works by new voices from outside the traditional theatrical community. Edelson and managing director Jennifer Sanders recently joined the company. Peter Finn, the board chairman of Jean Cocteau since January 2006, is also staying on, along with the other members of the board. According to press notes, "Realism guides audiences on a trip through one man's imaginative mind on an average day. Cabarets of crazy fantasies, poignant memories and childhood dreams shape a hilarious tragicomedy that leaps from the banal to the surreal and back again."

In addition, Jump!, set on New Year's Eve, "tells the story of seven people whose unrelated lives suddenly collide at the strike of midnight -- to everyone's detriment. This cast of desperate, colorful characters includes novice hit men, would-be suicide-cases and glitzy gals geared up for a night they probably won't remember." The play was originally set in Belfast but McGee has updated the script for the U.S. by relocating the characters to Staten Island.

Neilson is the author of nearly two-dozen plays including Dirty Laundry, Stitching, The Censor, Hoover Bag, The Wonderful World of Dissocia, The Lying Kind, Normal and Penetrator, which have been produced at U.K. venues such as The Royal Court, The Bush, National Theatre of Scotland, Royale Lyceum and the Edinburgh Festival.

McGee's plays include The Young Man with the Cream Tarts (co-written with Declan Feenan) and How to Get to Heaven From Belfast. Jump! is currently being developed into a film by the Northern Ireland Film Commission.

Edelson's recent directing credits include The Attic (Play Company/59E59); Blood Wedding, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Sexual Perversity in Chicago (Theatre Project Tokyo); True West and Tape (Tokyo Globe); and Rape of Lucretia (English National Opera in London and Luxembourg). Edelson is also founder of the Old Vic Theatre's Old Vic New Voices US/UK Program in London.

Theatre Row is at 410 West 42nd Street in Manhattan. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketcentral.com or call (212) 279-4200. For more information about the new company, visit www.exchangenyc.org.

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