Mountaintop Writer Katori Hall's Hurt Village Opens Feb. 27 in World Premiere
By Kenneth Jones
Signature Theatre Company's Romulus Linney Courtyard Theater in the new Pershing Square Signature Center on West 42nd Street is officially open for business Feb. 27 with the opening of the world premiere of Hurt Village, the new work by Katori Hall, the Olivier Award-winning writer of The Mountaintop. Previews began Feb. 7.
The play set in a Memphis housing project features Lloyd Watts, Charlie Hudson III, Marsha Stephanie Blake (The Merchant of Venice; Joe Turner's Come and Gone), Nicholas Christopher (Rent, In the Heights), Corey Hawkins (Suicide, Incorporated), Ron Cephas Jones (Gem of the Ocean, The Bridge Project), Joaquina Kalukango (Godspell), Tonya Pinkins (Play On!; Jelly's Last Jam; Caroline, or Change; "All My Children") and Saycon Sengbloh (Fela!, Hair).
Patricia McGregor directs the gritty drama about life and change in a family. Hurt Village continues to March 18. The play is part of the Off-Broadway Signature's newly expanded mission to produce new works, in a program dubbed Residency Five, which guarantees playwrights three world-premiere productions each over the course of a five-year residency.
Here's how Signature bills Hurt Village, which received a 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award from TCG: "It's the end of a long summer in Hurt Village, a housing project in Memphis, Tennessee. A government Hope Grant means relocation for many of the project's residents, including Cookie, a 13-year-old aspiring rapper, along with her mother Crank and great-grandmother Big Mama. As the family prepares to move, Cookie's father Buggy unexpectedly returns from a tour of duty in Iraq. Ravaged by the war, Buggy struggles to find a position in his disintegrating community, along with a place in his daughter's wounded heart."
The gritty work earned Hall the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, given annually to an outstanding female playwright.
The design team of Hurt Village includes David Gallo (set and projection design), Clint Ramos (costume design), Sarah Sidman (lighting design), Rob Kaplowitz (sound design), Cookie Jordan (hair and make-up design), Kate Wilson (dialect coach), Rick Sordelet (fight direction) and Luqman Brown (additional music). Casting is by Telsey + Company. The production stage manager is Jane Pole; assistant stage manager is Megan J. Alvord.
The not-for-profit Signature's new home is in the Frank Gehry-designed Pershing Square Signature Center at 480 W. 42nd Street between Dyer and 10th Avenues. Read Playbill.com's recent feature in which artistic director James Houghton offers a guided tour.
Across the lobby from Hurt Village is Athol Fugard's Blood Knot, now to March 11. It's the inaugural production in The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre. Edwrad Albee's The Lady From Dubuque is playing in the complex's third space, The End Stage Theatre, as part of Signature's Legacy Program.
All regularly priced single tickets ($75) for the initial run of both shows are available for $25 through The Signature Ticket Initiative: A Decade of Access. Tickets and season subscriptions can be purchased by calling the box office at (212) 244-7529 or online at www.signaturetheatre.org.
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