The Gift, Starring Kathy Baker, Chris Mulkey, Jaime Ray Newman and James Van Der Beek, Opens in L.A.
By Kenneth Jones
James Van Der Beek, best known for his starring roles on TV's "Dawson's Creek" and "Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23," stars in the American premiere of Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith's The Gift, about tension between two couples at an upscale resort, opening Feb. 6 following previews from Jan. 29 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
Maria Aitken (The 39 Steps) directs the new production, which also features Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Kathy Baker ("Picket Fences," "Edward Scissorshands," "All the King's Men") and stage and screen actors Chris Mulkey ("First Blood," "Southland," "Twin Peaks") and Jaime Ray Newman ("Eastwick," "Catch Me If You Can").
The staging is on the mainstage Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen, which previously produced Murray-Smith's play The Female of the Species, which ran to sell-out houses in Los Angeles and was also produced on the West End, where it was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.
Murray-Smith's play Honour was produced on Broadway, the West End, and at the Royal National Theatre in London. She has written 16 full-length plays that have been performed throughout North America and around the world in many languages.
Here's how The Gift is billed: "When two couples meet while vacationing at a ritzy resort, they instantly transition from strangers to the best of friends. Despite their almost comical differences — Ed (Chris Mulkey) and Sadie (Kathy Baker) are middle-aged, rich and traditional, while Martin (James Van Der Beek) and Chloe (Jamie Ray Newman) are young artists glowing with their potential to change the world — they find themselves spending the rest of their week together.
"When one seemingly inconsequential event throws both their lives into a tailspin, the couples find themselves wrestling with a moral dilemma: while it's human nature to want what you don't have, is it unnatural to abandon something that you do? This provocative new work draws audiences in with a beguiling hilarity that gives way to an unsettling twist, posing searing questions rather than providing comfortable answers."
The Gift was originally commissioned by Melbourne Theatre Company and received its world premiere in the MTC Theatre in Australia in 2011.
Geffen performances continue to March 10.
The production team includes scenic designer Derek McLane, costume designer Laura Bauer, lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski, sound designer John Gromada, projection designer Howard Werner, production stage manager Mary Michele Miner, assistant stage manager Gary J. Breitbach, casting director Phyllis Schuringa and dramaturg Amy Levinson.
For more information, visit geffenplayhouse.com.
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