This fall, the University of Rochester International Theatre Program will present two wildly entertaining and surreal contemporary comedies. The first of these productions is Escape from Happiness by George F. Walker, followed by Charles Ludlam's outrageous farce, Exquisite Torture. Both works are inherently satirical, the first exploring the realm of urban anxiety; the latter illusions of love and identity.
In the spring, the Theatre Program will present The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and a one-act new play festival promoting original works written and directed by students. These two productions will run simultaneously in late April and early May.
Directors for this year's productions are Mervyn Willis and Nigel Maister. Willis, the artistic director for the Theatre Program since 1990, also directed recent productions such as Arcadia, The Misanthrope, and The Libertine. Maister begins his fifth season as associate director of the program and has directed numerous other productions such as The Wild Man, Ghosts, and The Iliad.
ADMISSION: All productions are $8 general admission; $7 for faculty, staff, and seniors; and $5 for students. Group rates are available. Visa and Mastercard are accepted. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, by calling (585) 275-4088, or online at http://www.rochester.edu/College/ENG/theatre.
STAGE: Todd Theater in Todd Union, corner of Wilson Boulevard and Alumni Road on the University's River Campus.
PARKING: Free after 7 p.m. on weeknights and on weekends in University lots.
ESCAPE FROM HAPPINESS by George F. Walker
OPENS: 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 19 PLAYS: 8 p.m., Oct. 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 28 3 p.m., Oct. 22
The Theatre Program's first production of the season, Escape from Happiness, is a contemporary, darkly comic vision of the struggles of one eccentric family to achieve wholeness, peace, and stability in the face of a complex and adverse world. Nora, the somewhat distracted matriarch of a family of three girls, finds her family entangled in a complex web of criminal conspiracy. In order to avoid potential disaster, Nora and her daughters must confront or collaborate with a father-son team of small-time crooks, a pair of police officers who may or may not be corrupt, and with the presence of a man who may or may not be Nora's husband and the family's patriarch. Arguably Canada's most prolific and prominent playwright, George F. Walker has written a viciously funny satire that cuts straight to the heart of urban anxiety.
The play is directed by Maister, and Emmy-Award winning designer Clay Brown is responsible for set and costume design. Brown has also designed for productions such as Saturday Night Live, Late Show With Conan O'Brien, and the Rosie O'Donnell Show. Lighting design is headed by Ryan Mueller, executive designer of Theater Mitu in New York City. Obadiah Eaves, who designed the sound score for the Theatre Program's 2000 production of The Iliad, will provide music and sound design. Eaves has created numerous other scores for University productions as well as television networks such as Nickelodeon and HBO.
EXQUISITE TORTURE by Charles Ludlam
OPENS: 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7 PLAYS: 8 p.m., Dec. 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16 3 p.m., Dec. 10
Exquisite Torture presents the story of a fading, impoverished, and love-wracked Italian aristocrat and his passionate attraction to a woman he thought was lost to him forever but now has possibly been found. Based on Salvador Dali's remarkable novel Hidden Faces, the production blends Jean Genet's The Maids and Luigi Pirandello's As You Desire Me. Ludlam's idiosyncratic farce promises to be a hilarious and dramatic hit.
The production will be directed by Maister. Set and costume design will be provided by Holly Laws, who also designed costumes and puppets for last season's production of The Iliad and co-designed the set of the 1998 production of The Wild Man. Laws' film credits include The Last of the Mohicans, The Crucible, and The Ciderhouse Rules. Lighting will be designed by Allen D. Hahn, a founding member of the New York-based Opera Project, which is dedicated to creating and producing new opera. Allen also designed the lights for last's season's production of The Iliad.