Two 9/11-Themed Plays Omnium Gatherum and Portraits Begin Off-Broadway Previews, Sept. 9

News   Two 9/11-Themed Plays Omnium Gatherum and Portraits Begin Off-Broadway Previews, Sept. 9 Omnium Gatherum, the topical drama by Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, and Portraits, a collection of 9/11-themed monologues by Jonathan Bell, both begin previews Off-Broadway Sept. 9—the first at the Variety Arts, the second at the Union Square.
Omnium Gatherum Homemaker Kristine Nielsen.
Omnium Gatherum Homemaker Kristine Nielsen.

Both start their runs two days short of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, from which the dramas draw their inspiration.

Omnium Gatherum caught critics' and producers' attention at the 2003 Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville this past March. The New York cast includes many of the Louisville production's stars, including Kristine Nielsen, Dean Nolen, Phillip Clark and Edward J. Hajj. Also in the cast are Amir Arison, Jenny Bacon, Melanna Gray and Joseph Lyle Taylor. Opening night is Sept. 25.

Will Frears, the director at Louisville, will repeat his work in New York. David Rockwell designs the set. Rockwell's set will differ from what was seen in Kentucky, the designer told Playbill On-Line. The producers of the New York mounting are Robert Cole, Joyce Johnson and Max Cooper, in association with Charles Flateman/Kerrin Behrend and Jujamcyn Theaters. The involvement of Jujamcyn seems to indicate that a Broadway transfer for the praised work is not out of the question.

Omnium depicts a contentious dinner party, possibly taking place in hell. Among the guests are characters who resemble such turbulent (and talkative) social forces as journalist Christopher Hitchens, homemaker mogul Martha Stewart, novelist Tom Clancy and Palestinian-American educator and author Edward Said. The play is described as "An urgent, impassioned and hilarious conversation about the implications of the Sept. 11 attacks and beyond."

The overall plan for the play, a spokesman for Rebeck previously told Playbill On-Line, is to open it at several theatres across the nation at roughly the same time, while allowing the New York staging to be the first out of the gate. Productions in Seattle and St. Louis have already been announced for 2003-04. Rebeck is the author of such plays as The Butterfly Collection, The Family of Mann and Spike Heels. Her solo play, Bad Dates, about a restaurant manager who juggles motherhood, work and a collection of bad dates with jerks, premiered at Playwrights Horizons in June and was extended.

Gersten-Vassilros' work has frequently been seen at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company. One play, My Thing of Love, reached Broadway in 1995, where it lasted a mere 12 performances, despite a cast headed by Laurie Metcalf.

Tickets are $66.25. For information, call (212) 239-6200.

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Portraits had a 2002 run at The Ridgefield Playhouse in Fairfield County, CT. It's Off-Broadway opening is set for Sept. 21.

The work, directed by Mark Pinter, is a series of seven personal tales, some inspired by real people and their responses to the 2001 terrorist attacks. The cast will feature Victor Slezak (Roses in December), Dana Reeve, Roberta Maxwell, Anjali Bhimani (Metamorphoses), Matte Osian, Christopher Coucill and Darrie Lawrence.

The Ridgefield show starred Pinter, Frank Converse, regional theatre veteran Gina Daniels, Broadway vet Anita Gillette, Rebecca Schull, Thomas Wiggin and Colleen Zenk-Pinter.

Bell told Playbill On-Line in 2002, "It's a collection of stories, it's a full production...[presented] as a dedication to victims and survivors of the tragic events of Sept. 11. It's kind of a personal observation of individual stories. I wanted to remember people on the perimeter of the events. I thought the historical actions highlighting public heroes would be pretty well documented. I thought it would be interesting to amplify the personal experiences of everyday people. Throughout the course of creating it, I encountered several unusual stories surrounding the events of the 11th. The final product of Portraits is a mixture of fictional and non-fictional accounts."

The play offers five monologues and a duologue, introduced by an artist character who presents the people as pictures in a gallery, with references to Picasso's "Guernica" painting. Bell culled stories from the internet or from newspapers and used them as starting points for his monologues. Among the portrait subjects:

  • Betty, a simple woman, alone in upstate New York, who needs to reach out and communicate to someone — anyone.
  • Daniel, an executive at the World Trade Center who is in the wrong place at the wrong time — and gets caught.
  • Arifa, a Muslim woman, and a proud, third-generation American. She is now fearful as an American and of Americans.
  • John, a registered nurse and an EMT from Orange County, NY, who headed to NYC to help in any way he could.
  • Ruth, the mother of a man who survived; and Nancy, the wife of a man who did not, because he was helping others get out. Nancy is resentful. The piece was originally titled 9/11 Portraits.

    For tickets, call (212) 307-4100.

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    Another 9/11-themed play, Craig Wright's Recent Tragic Events, began previews Sept. 5 at Playwrights Horizons.

  • <i>Portraits</i>' Victor Slezak and Anjali Bhimani.
    Portraits' Victor Slezak and Anjali Bhimani.