Keen Company to Stage Off-Broadway Revival of Andrew Lippa's John & Jen in 2015

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11 Aug 2014

Andrew Lippa
Andrew Lippa

The first major New York revival of Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods, featuring a gender reversal in the lead character, and Andrew Lippa's rarely-performed two-person musical John & Jen will be featured in Keen Company's 2014-15 season.

The season, which marks the 15th anniversary of Keen Company, will be presented at The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row.

"Since 2000, Keen has presented stories of people doing their best during challenging times. This season, we continue that tradition by presenting two revivals that explore the relationship between the personal and political. I have wanted to direct A Walk In The Woods since assisting a production early in my career at George Street Playhouse. In light of recent events, Lee's smart, entertaining and deeply personal treatment of a complex issue is just as important today as it was when originally presented," artistic director Jonathan Silverstein said in a statement. "I am especially excited to welcome back two of our talented and distinguished alumni, Kathleen Chalfant and Paul Niebanck, back to the Keen stage for Woods. In a twist, Kathy will be playing the Russian Botvinnik, originally written for a man but here adapted for a woman. Kathleen is unique and fearless actor and I have no doubt she will bring a refreshing and truly original interpretation to the role." 

A Walk In The Woods will begin performances Sept. 9, prior to an official opening Sept. 30. The production will continue through Oct. 18.

Directed by Silverstein, the production will star Tony nominee Kathleen Chalfant (Angels in America, Wit) and Paul Niebanck (Blood and Gifts, In the Next Room or the vibrator play).



Here's how A Walk in the Woods is billed: "Lee Blessing's Pulitzer Prize nominated drama, is a revealing debate on the hope and ultimate futility of high-stakes politics. Two super power arms negotiators — one a cynical Russian veteran and the other an idealistic American newcomer — meet informally in the woods after long, frustrating hours at the bargaining table."

“I'm honored to have A Walk in the Woods return to New York with the Keen Company. It's precisely the sort of visionary, innovative theatre for the task. I still feel the thrill of Kathleen Chalfont's unforgettable performance in Wit. It's been a dream of mine to work with her ever since,” Blessing said in a statement. "In recent decades more and more women have reached the highest echelons of government in western developed nations. People like Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Janet Yellen and Christine Lagarde routinely wield responsibilities, which not long ago belonged only to men. Given such developments, it seems to me informative rather than jarring to re-envision a character from my play as a woman rather than a man."

A Walk in the Woods will have scenic design by Scott Bradley, lighting design by Josh Bradford, costume design by Jennifer Paar and sound design by M.L. Dogg.

The season will continue with a rare revival of John & Jen, directed by Jonathan Silverstein. The musical features music by Andrew Lippa (Big Fish, The Wild Party, The Addams Family), lyrics by Tom Greenwald and a book by Lippa and Greenwald. It premiered Off-Broadway in 1995.

Performances will begin Feb. 10, 2015, prior to an official opening March 3. "In a changing America between 1950 and 1990, John & Jen is a musical about brothers and sisters and parents and children," press notes state. "It tells the story of Jen and her relationships with the two Johns of her life: her younger brother, and his namesake, her son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world."

“We're thrilled that Jonathan Silverstein and his extraordinary team at Keen Company are bringing John & Jen back to New York, exactly twenty years after its Off-Broadway premiere. This show means a tremendous amount to both of us, and it's extremely gratifying to bring it back home where it belongs. As Jen herself sings, 'The Road Ends Here!',” Lippa and Greenwald said in a statement.

A one-night only reading of John Patrick's The Hasty Heart, reuniting the majority of the original cast, will be presented Dec. 8. The story of a young Scottish soldier (Keith Nobbs) in a WWII army hospital, The Hasty Heart will also feature Stephen Bradbury, Emily Donahoe, Anthony Manna, Brian Sgambati and Paul Swinnerton. 

The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row is located at 410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Aves. For more information, visit keencompany.org