Spinoza Clashes With Community in Premiere of Ives' New Jerusalem, Opening Jan. 13

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13 Jan 2008

David Ives, currently on a roll with his acclaimed adaptation of Mark Twain's Is He Dead? on Broadway, is represented Off-Broadway with New Jerusalem, opening Jan. 13 after previews from Dec. 28.

Tony Award winner Richard Easton, plus Fyvush Finkel, David Garrison, Jenn Harris, Michael Izquierdo, Natalia Payne and Jeremy Strong star in the world-premiere drama, produced by Classic Stage Company in Manhattan.

Tony Award winner Walter Bobbie (Chicago, White Christmas, High Fidelity) directs the play, about the 1656 interrogation of the philosopher Baruch De Spinoza. The production continues to Feb. 3, at CSC's home at 136 East 13th Street.

In New Jerusalem, which is presented by special arrangement with commercial producer Robert Boyett, the Jewish community of Amsterdam interrogates Spinoza for his controversial ideas. The play "examines the clash between religion and modernity that Jews, Christians and Muslims are still, some 350 years later, struggling to reconcile," according to CSC.

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Ives worked with CSC last season as the translator for Yasmina Reza's A Spanish Play, which starred Zoe Caldwell and Denis O'Hare. His translation of Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear won a 2006 Jefferson Award in Chicago. His original plays include the popular collections of one-act comedies All in the Timing and Time Flies; Polish Joke; Canvas; and Saint Freud. He has adapted more than 30 classic musicals for the acclaimed City Center Encores! series.

New Jerusalem features set design by Tony Award winner John Lee Beatty, lighting by Tony Award winner Ken Billington, costumes by Anita Yavich, and sound design by Nevin Steinberg/Acme Sound Partners.

According to CSC notes, Baruch de Spinoza, born November 24, 1632, was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin. Today, he is considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy, laying the groundwork for the 18th-century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism. By virtue of his magnum opus, the posthumous "Ethics," Spinoza is also considered one of Western philosophy's definitive ethicists, and has been called "the absolute philosopher." In his early 20s, he became known in the Jewish community in Amsterdam for positions contrary to Jewish belief. On July 27, 1656, a convocation of his temple board was called, and a writ of kherem (excommunication) was issued against Spinoza. Although there is no record of what was said in the temple on that day, the precise terms of Spinoza's kherem have come down to us. The writ was severe, and never revoked. Following his excommunication, he adopted the name Benedictus, the Latin equivalent of Baruch; they both mean "blessed." Banished from Amsterdam, he earned his living as a lens grinder, and died at 44 on Feb. 21, 1677.

Richard Easton (Mortiera) appeared last season in the highly acclaimed, Tony Award-winning production of Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center Theater. In 2002 he received the Tony Award as Best Actor in a Play for his performance in Stoppard's The Invention of Love.

Jeremy Strong (Spinoza) most recently appeared at Playwrights Horizons in Richard Nelson's Frank's Home and John Patrick Shanley's Defiance at Manhattan Theater Club.

David Garrison (Van Valkenburgh) has appeared on Broadway in Wicked, Titanic, Torch Song Trilogy, Bells Are Ringing and A Day In Hollywood/A Night In Ukraine, for which he received a Tony nomination. On television he starred in "Married…With Children."

Fyvush Finkel (Ben Israel) is a major figure of the New York Yiddish theatre. In 1970 he assumed the role of Tevye in the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. In 1992 David Kelly cast him as attorney Douglas Wambaugh on the acclaimed CBS series "Picket Fences," for which he received an Emmy Award in 1994. He was most recently been seen in "Boston Public."

Director Walter Bobbie received the Tony Award as Best Director of a Musical for the current revival of Chicago, now in its 11th year on Broadway. His other Broadway directing credits include the recent revivals of Sweet Charity and Twentieth Century, and the original musicals High Fidelity and Footloose. He is the former artistic director of the NY City Center Encores! series. He is also director of the popular commercial production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, seen in major markets around North America.

New Jerusalem will be performed Tuesday-Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. For tickets and information visit www.classicstage.org or call (866) 811-4111, or (212) 352-3101, or visit the CSC box-office, 136 E. 13th Street, Monday through Friday noon-6 PM.

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CSC is under the leadership of artistic director Brian Kulick and executive director Jessica R. Jenen.