Sarah Ruhl's Dear Elizabeth, With Mary Beth Fisher and Tom Nelis, Opens May 29 at Berkeley Rep
By Michael Gioia
Sarah Ruhl and Les Waters, creators of Eurydice, Three Sisters and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), reunite for the West Coast premiere of Ruhl's Dear Elizabeth, which concludes Berkeley Repertory Theatre's 45th season. The work opens May 29, following previews that began May 24.
Mary Beth Fisher (The Night of the Iguana, Drama Desk nominee for Boy Gets Girl) stars as Elizabeth Bishop opposite Tom Nelis (Aida, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Enron) as Robert Lowell in the play, which continues through July 7 at the Roda Theatre.
Fisher was seen in the world premiere of Dear Elizabeth at Yale Rep, also helmed by Waters.
Dear Elizabeth, according to Berkeley Rep, "follows the beautiful and bittersweet friendship between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Across oceans and continents, across three decades, these esteemed poets found a true marriage of minds in their eloquent correspondence. Dubbed the Dickinson and Whitman of the 20th century, they traded hundreds of vibrant, witty, and passionate letters that now spring to life on stage. This West Coast premiere paints an intimate portrait of two extraordinary – and quite ordinary – lives, told anew by two of the finest artists of our time."
"It's a delight to come back to Berkeley Rep, which has been an artistic home for me – and for Sarah – for many years," said director Waters in an earlier statement. "It's always a pleasure to direct in the Bay Area, as audiences here crave smart and savvy new works. I hope that they are as engaged by this subtle and touching story as we have been."
"I'm so happy to be working again at Berkeley Rep with Les," added Ruhl. "I think there is no better town to receive an unconventional love story between two brilliant and unconventional poets. I was terribly moved when Les signed on to direct the play before I'd finished writing it, and when Tony signed on to produce it while it was still in process. Having an artistic home like that in this day in age is rare and radical."
Ruhl earned a Tony nomination for In the Next Room, directed on Broadway by Waters, and is the author of the plays Dead Man's Cell Phone, Eurydice, The Clean House, Passion Play and Orlando.
Other members of the creative team include Annie Smart (scenic design), Maria Hooper (costume design), Russell Champa (lighting design), Bray Poor (sound designer), Hannah Wasileski (projections) and Cynthia Cahill (production stage manager). Dear Elizabeth is produced by Mary and Nicholas Graves, John and Helen Meyer, and Jean and Michael Strunsky.
During the run of Dear Elizabeth, Berkeley Rep will offer post-show discussions moderated by theatre professionals following the June 13, June 18 and June 28 performances; free 30-minute docent talks every Tuesday and Thursday evening; and more.
The Roda Theatre is located at 2015 Addison Street in Berkeley, CA. For more information and tickets, call (510) 647-2949 or visit BerkeleyRep.org.
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