A Swell Party's Hangers-On and Hangovers Explored in Greenberg's Bal Masque, Premiering in D.C.

News   A Swell Party's Hangers-On and Hangovers Explored in Greenberg's Bal Masque, Premiering in D.C.
Richard Greenberg's new play surrounding Truman Capote's famous 1966 Black and White Ball, gets its world premiere April 3–May 21 in Washington, DC.
Promotional art for Theater J's Bal Masque.
Promotional art for Theater J's Bal Masque.

Theater J, the resident Equity company that performs at the DCJCC, produces the play, which is set "in the wee hours after Truman Capote's famous Black and White Ball of 1966."

In it, "three couples return from a lavish night of partying at the Plaza Hotel and try to maintain a defiantly upbeat demeanor after, what for almost everyone in the play, was a singularly miserable evening."

Opening night is April 9.


According to Theater J, "Greenberg locates his celebrity-obsessed revelers during a period in American society when the cultural margins were moving to the middle, and the old social upper-class was being shoved to the margins. Witness the ubiquitous (though unseen in this play) character of Truman Capote himself, a man who might have once been regarded as 'a social zero' working feverishly to put himself at the vortex of a social and cultural whirlwind. All the invitees in the play find themselves craving for affirmation from Capote, but few are satisfied. We watch Greenberg's motley assortment of party-goers yearn for affection, though not from their partners." Theater J's resident director John Vreeke directs a cast that includes Brigid Cleary, Maia DeSanti, Jeff Allin (a veteran of Greenberg's work at both South Coast Rep and Lincoln Center Theater in Greenberg's Everett Beekin), Colleen Delany, Todd Scofield and Cameron McNary.

Greenberg's three-part play "presents tragi-comic portraits of three couples, each hiding (or in search of) tantalizing secrets," according to Theater J. "Part I introduces us to Trey and Greer (Cleary and Allin), a well-groomed couple in their forties who have much disappointment on their minds though they are loathe to show it, just as they are loathe to admit they weren't actually invited to the Ball and crashed the party. In Part II, Capote's favorite socialite and aptly named head 'swan,' Marietta (DeSanti), eagerly entertains Owen (McNary), a budding artist and social climber in her posh apartment, while her husband Russell (Scofield) escorts Owen's wife, Joanna (Delany) home to her modest abode. While Marietta attempts to pry from Owen a salacious anecdote to tell her beloved Truman, Joanna reveals to Russell her own shocking secret. Part III concludes with a surprising ending where two characters meet in Central Park, at the metaphorical intersection of Wreckage and Aftermath. Quite by accident, they forge the most humane connection of the evening."

Bal Masque has modernist set design by Daniel Conway and costume design by Kathleen Geldard.

"Richard Greenberg," stated Theater J artistic director Ari Roth, "has written an incredibly subtle, textured, and wise chamber play showing how three mis-matched couples come to grips with their own limitations and disappointments and try to seize a moment — a unique moment in American history — where times are a-changing and the future holds both promise and displacement. Greenberg has called this play 'A Twilight Play; a play that takes place just after midnight and ends right after dawn.' He's interested in the in-between spaces where people negotiate happiness and disappointment, truth and secrecy, and — this being the age of the Sexual Revolution — their own evolving sexuality."

Roth continued, "The play challenges the audience to ask, 'What happens when our fascination with the freakish overwhelms and becomes hideous? What happens when flirtations with scandal touch a tad too close, either for comfort or titillation?' Greenberg is painting a pop mural of our cancerous cultural obsessions. But he doesn't end bleakly. He points the way toward a more authentic opportunity for renewal."

Roth called Bal Masque "both a departure for our adventurous Jewish theatre, and very much par for the course in terms of taking risks and entrusting our experience with an artist of stature and depth. The play will give us the opportunity to study up close and personal, much like the award winning film 'Capote,' a promising and destructive moment in American history."

This spring, New York City will see the Broadway premiere of Greenberg's Three Days of Rain starring Julia Roberts (currently in previews), as well as the world premiere of his The House in Town Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater.

Greenberg's plays include Take Me Out, The Well-Appointed Room (at Steppenwolf Theatre this year), A Naked Girl on the Appian Way, The Violet Hour, The Dazzle, Hurrah at Last, Everett Beekin, Night and Her Stars and Eastern Standard, among others.

Performances play Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 and 7:30 PM.

For tickets or information, call (800) 494-TIXS or visit www.theaterj.org.

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