The Literary Supplement: Jews as Outsiders

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WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA), whose current three-play season explores images of Jews as outsiders in the predominantly Christian society of pre-20th-century Europe, presents four staged readings of plays that keep to the same theme during their Literary Supplement series. The plays presented are: Sir Arnold Wesker's Shylock, directed by Arin Arbus; A.R. Gurney, Jr.'s Overtime, directed by Evan Yionoulis; Michael Feingold's new adaptation of Henry Bernstein's Among Gentlemen, directed by Carl Forsman; and John Galsworthy's Loyalties, directed by Arin Arbus. "We're reading these plays at a time of Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rants; when Israel's legitimacy as a state is under attack; when there's a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe; when Iran is simultaneously developing nuclear weapons and holding a conference of Holocaust deniers; when the Pope attacks Islam; when the American government tells us that a group of Muslims want to end our way of life. These plays are more than timely because the hatred, anxiety, violence and savagery revealed in them are all too visible in our world." -- Jeffrey Horowitz, Artistic Director, Theatre for a New Audience Shylock By Sir Arnold Wesker Directed by Arin Arbus Monday, February 5 at 7:30pm A bold play of an epic scale by one of the leading writers of England's post-1956 Royal Court movement, Shylock is an alternative telling of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, this time setting the conflict between Shylock and Antonio in a larger society where Jews and Christians interact and in the context of the philosophic and economic conflicts that molded Renaissance Europe. Under its original title of The Merchant, the play premiered in America in 1977, directed by John Dexter and starring Zero Mostel in the title role. The production was scheduled for two brief out-of-town runs prior to its planned Broadway opening, but, after only one performance, Zero Mostel died suddenly. Although the play did subsequently open on Broadway, it was fatally marred by the tragedy of Mostel's loss, as well as by difficulties with recasting and reshaping, and it closed after only eight performances. Sir Arnold's newly revised and re-titled text is now presented for the first time in New York. Reading Shylock are Alvin Epstein (as Shylock), Marian Seldes, Mia Barron, Jordan Charney, David Townsend, Carmen Lacivita , Cindy Katz, Robert Stattel, Gareth Saxe, Max Casella, Kate Forbes, Melissa Miller, Jesse Pennington, and Nicholas Kepros. Overtime By A.R. Gurney, Jr. Directed by Evan Yionoulis Monday, February 12 at 7:30pm In contrast to Shylock, Gurney's frothy, sardonic sequel to The Merchant of Venice, originally produced in 1996, begins with the end of Shakespeare's last act, as Portia and her guests celebrate their victory over Shylock at her estate. Sliding Shakespeare's characters into the American ethnic conflicts of our own multi-cultural time, Mr. Gurney wittily teases new ideas out of the familiar characters by taking their story several startling steps further. Reading Overtime are Nicholas Kepros (recreating his original role as Shylock), Kathleen McElfresh, Jedediah Schultz, Maria Elena Ramirez, Edward O'Blenis, Aya Cash, Jeffrey Withers, Rufus Collins, and Brennan Brown. Among Gentlemen Adapted from Henry Bernstein's original by Michael Feingold Directed by Carl Forsman Monday, February 26 at 7:30pm Produced while the Dreyfus case still divided Paris, this stunning 1908 melodrama by one of the most acclaimed French playwrights of his day produced near-riotous controversy when it premiered. As a prelude to a political takeover, right-wing Christian extremists campaign to drive a prominent Jew out of polite society, with shockingly unexpected consequences. Born in 1876, Bernstein enjoyed enormous success with productions in Paris, London, and New York. With his anti-Nazi play Elvira still playing in Paris, he fled to the U.S. in 1940, returning to Paris after the war and continuing to turn out plays until his death in 1953. Titled Israel in its French original, Among Gentlemen produced such lasting acrimony among anti-Semitic groups in France that the opening of Bernstein's next play, Apres Moi at the Comedie-Francaise, produced violent rioting, forcing the company to withdraw the play from its repertoire. Bernstein's continuing success in the Paris commercial theatre of the 1920s and 1930s did nothing to alleviate his status as a target of anti-Semitic attacks, and only in recent decades has France begun to reevaluate his works. Loyalties By John Galsworthy Directed by Arin Arbus Monday, March 5 at 7:30pm Acclaimed at its 1921 premiere, this classic suspense drama by the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Forsyte Saga hinges on delicate issues of money, ethnicity, truth and social acceptance, which combine to move toward tragedy when a wealthy young Jewish guest at an aristocratic country house finds a large sum of money missing from his room and has the effrontery to accuse a fellow guest. The Literary Supplement series is presented concurrently with the company's productions of The Merchant of Venice and The Jew of Malta.

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