Confederacy of Dunces, Pulitzer-Winning Novel, Gets World-Premiere Stage Adaptation

By Kenneth Jones
11 Aug 2010

Cast member Aaron Munoz
Cast member Aaron Munoz
Photo by Jamie Bullins

Theatrical Outfit, the small Atlanta Equity company devoted to classic and new works, launches the world premiere of Tom Key's adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic novel "A Confederacy of Dunces" on Aug. 11. Aaron Munoz plays the quirky hero of the tale.

Richard Garner directs the Southern-set tale, running to Sept. 5 at the Balzer Theater at Herren's, 84 Luckie St., in Atlanta. The late John Kennedy Toole novel won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and studios, playwrights and screenwriters have sought the rights ever since.

Cast in the role of Ignatius is Atlanta newcomer Munoz, who has regional credits from Louisville to New York. Ignatius' long-suffering mother, Mrs. Reilly, is played by Kathleen McManus, who grew up in 1960s New Orleans and has been an Atlanta actor for several decades; she was seen last season as Big Edie in Grey Gardens at Actor's Express in Atlanta. E. Roger Mitchell, who plays the Narrator/Watson, was last seen in Theatrical Outfit's The Sunset Limited, Horizon Theatre's A Cool Drink of Water and Kenny Leon's productions of Jitney, Miss Evers Boys and Ceremonies In Dark Old Men.

Completing the 16-member cast are Brik Berkes (Mr. Levy/Ensemble), Andrew Crigler (George/Ensemble), Rachel DeJulio (Waitress/Ensemble), Laura Floyd (Darlene/Myrna/Ensemble), Marianne Fraulo (Trixie/Santa/Miss Annie/Ensemble), Agnes Harty (Lana Lee/Mrs. Levy/Ensemble), Enoch King (Jones/Ensemble), Mark Kinkaid (Sergeant/Ensemble), Eric Mendenhall (Gonzales/Ensemble), William S. Murphey (Claude/Clyde/Ensemble), Andrew Puckett (Dorian/Ensemble), Scott Warren (Mancuso) and Mary Wolfson (Miss Inez/Ensemble).

Theatrical Outfit calls the story a "grand farce set in 1960s New Orleans….[it] has the bombastic comic power to subvert reality and brilliantly reveal the human condition."



The beloved novel by the late Toole has been ripe for adaptation since it appeared. In fall 2008, Atlantan Tom Key received an unexpected phone call from the book's agent, who offered him the rights for a limited time.

About the phone call, Key said in a statement, "I was ecstatic. My antennae are always up for rich dialogue, which is the best soil for translating a piece to the stage, and 'A Confederacy of Dunces' is so full of truth and brilliance and hilarity — there's almost a comic button at the end of every scene."

According to Theatrical Outfit, A Confederacy of Dunces "chronicles the extravagantly colorful, eccentric world of one Ignatius J. Reilly, perhaps one of literature's most enduringly rendered anti-heroes. A lumbering, loutish mountain of a man, Ignatius carries a volcanic vitriol for the modern era and is ever at the eruption point; with abandon, he spouts and spews his disdain of the social, racial, economic and religious states of contemporary America. Clad in his trademark green hunting cap with earflaps, voluminous pleated tweed trousers, plaid flannel shirt and muffler, he spends the bulk of his time in his long-suffering mother's house, feverishly scribbling his lengthy indictment of the last four centuries in Big Chief notebooks. When Ignatius does venture past Constantinople Street, he is forced to function in a culture he loathes…"

Of Ignatius, playwright Key stated, "He is genius with his verbiage, but he's also disconnected from reality. Ignatius is presented in such a way that he's almost impossible to like, but he so exposes the chronic hypocrisy that exists in the country that we have to pull for him…We want our geniuses to be corporate and well-adapted, so if we cast off the Rileys from our lives — our sometimes off-putting, unchecked natural human impulses — we're the poorer for it as a society."

The production team includes set designer Sara Ward, costume designer Jamie Bullins, lighting designer Mike Post, sound designer Thom Jenkins, props designer Maclare "MC" Park and hair and wig designer Monty Schuth.

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Key's adaptation resume includes "Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Seminar," "The Moviegoer," "Pilgrim's Progress," a reader's theatre extraction of C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" and Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory." Since 1995, Key has served as executive artistic director of Theatrical Outfit. He conceived and co-authored the Off-Broadway and regional musical Cotton Patch Gospel, with the late singer-songwriter, Harry Chapin. His one-man play C.S. Lewis On Stage has been presented for more than 20 years.

Director Garner is in his 24th season as producing artistic director and co-founder of Georgia Shakespeare (LORT D) in Atlanta.

For tickets and more information, call (678) 528-1500 or visit www.theatricaloutfit.org.