Will David Ives' New Jerusalem Find Renewed Life on Broadway?

News   Will David Ives' New Jerusalem Find Renewed Life on Broadway? New Jerusalem, David Ives' play about the trials of 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, might have a life uptown following its Off-Broadway world premiere seen at Classic Stage Company earlier this winter.
Richard Easton and Fyvush Finkel star in New Jerusalem
Richard Easton and Fyvush Finkel star in New Jerusalem

Broadway producer Bob Boyett is in talks to move the show to Broadway, Playbill.com has learned, but a spokesman cautioned that no deal is in place, and that a transfer "is in the discussion phase."

Loose lips of those connected to the play have indicated Circle in the Square as a possible destination for the well-reviewed production directed by Walter Bobbie and starring Tony Award winner Richard Easton.

CSC extended the world-premiere run of New Jerusalem by one week to Feb. 10, citing critical acclaim and brisk ticket sales. The CSC production, produced by special arrangement with Bob Boyett, opened Jan. 13 after previews from Dec. 28, 2007.

The cast included Easton, Fyvush Finkel, David Garrison and Jeremy Strong (as Spinoza), with Jenn Harris, Michael Izquierdo and Natalia Payne.

The play focused on the 1656 interrogation of the noted philosopher Baruch de Spinoza by the Jewish community of Amsterdam for his controversial ideas, and "examines the clash between religion and modernity that Jews, Christians and Muslims are still, some 350 years later, struggling to reconcile," according to the earlier CSC billing. The staging featured set design by Tony Award winner John Lee Beatty, costumes by Anita Yavich, lighting by Tony Award winner Ken Billington and sound by Acme Sound Partners.

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Ives is on a roll this season: His acclaimed adaptation of Mark Twain's Is He Dead? is playing at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre.

Ives worked with CSC last season as the translator for Yasmina Reza's A Spanish Play, which starred Zoe Caldwell and Denis O'Hare. His translation of Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear won a 2006 Jefferson Award in Chicago. His original plays include the popular collections of one-act comedies All in the Timing and Time Flies; Polish Joke; Canvas; and Saint Freud. He has adapted more than 30 classic musicals for the acclaimed City Center Encores! series.

Baruch de Spinoza, born November 24, 1632, was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin. Today, he is considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy, laying the groundwork for the 18th-century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism. His posthumous "Ethics" helped solidify his reputation as one of Western philosophy's major ethicists. He has been called "the absolute philosopher." In his early 20s, he became known in the Jewish community in Amsterdam for positions contrary to Jewish belief. On July 27, 1656, a convocation of his temple board was called, and a writ of kherem (excommunication) was issued against Spinoza. Although there is no record of what was said in the temple on that day, the precise terms of Spinoza's kherem are known. The writ was severe, and never revoked.

Following his excommunication, Spinoza adopted the name Benedictus, the Latin equivalent of Baruch; they both mean "blessed." Banished from Amsterdam, he earned his living as a lens grinder, and died at 44 on Feb. 21, 1677.

Director Walter Bobbie received the Tony Award as Best Director of a Musical for the current revival of Chicago, now in its 11th year on Broadway. His other Broadway directing credits include the recent revivals of Sweet Charity and Twentieth Century, and the original musicals High Fidelity and Footloose. He is the former artistic director of the NY City Center Encores! series. He is also director of the popular commercial production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, seen in major markets around North America.

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