Four by Four by Two
Four Plays by Two Authors Staged by Four Directors.
Graceland takes place outside the front entrance of Graceland, at 5 a.m. three days before the estate is to be opened to the public. Two ardent Presley fans, middle-aged Bev and young Rootie, have arrived at the sacred gates, each desiring to be the first to enter the grounds, and each believing that she is the one most deserving of the honor. Wary at first, the two soon progress from dispute to shared confidences and a touching resolution. Asleep on the Wind serves as a “prequel” to Graceland, taking place 10 years earlier in Bayou Teche, Louisiana, where adolescent Rootie and her favorite brother, Beau, come to talk in private and to escape the harassment of her other brothers. This time Beau has a double purpose for their meeting: to persuade Rootie to try to stick it out at home and in school and to reach beyond him for companionship; and also to tell her that he has enlisted in the army and has requested service in Vietnam.
Birding with Aunt Nancy, winner of the Fitton Center New Play competition, finds two sisters, Ellie and Mim, as they have traveled to their favorite Aunt’s favorite bird watching spot to spread her ashes. With the assistance of their Aunt’s favorite bottle of Scotch, left to them in her will, they use humor to celebrate her life, mourn her death, and grapple with the legacy of painful family relationships. Strawberry Island provides us insight into the past that has brought these characters to where they are, finding the two sisters as children on vacation in Michigan, visiting their favorite aunt. Having rowed to the small, uninhabited island in Lake Huron where Nancy has built a bird blind to monitor the migrations of bald eagles, they encounter another pair of young siblings, locals who challenge the sisters to a competition—who can collect the most wild strawberries in 10 minutes. But the game reveals much more than simple competitiveness, as the sisters begin to confront the impending divorce of their parents and their growing understanding of their own feelings about generosity, loyalty, and fairness, with both humor and frustration.
Described by Newsweek as sounding “like a marriage of Moliere and Woody Allen,” Art won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1996 Olivier Award for Best Comedy. Navigating the complexities of aesthetics, maturity, and evolving friendships, Art concerns three long-time friends, Serge, Marc, and Yvan. Serge, indulging his penchant for modern art, buys a large, expensive, completely white painting. Marc is horrified, and their friendship is challenged as a result of their differing opinions about what constitutes “art.” Yvan, caught in the middle of the conflict, tries to please and mollify them both to preserve the friendship.
Winner of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award as best play of the season, Talley’s Folly is the story of one night in the lives of two unlikely sweethearts, Matt Friedman and Sally Talley. The play takes place in a dilapidated boathouse on the Talley farm in Missouri on the Fourth of July, 1944. Matt gradually awakens Sally to the possibilities of a life together until, in the final, touching moments of the play, it is clear that they are two kindred spirits who have truly found each other—two “lame ducks” who, in their union, will find a wholeness rare in human relationships.
Directed by Virgil Seger
Matt Friedman – Matt Benzing
Sally Talley – Heidi Bortel
The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman
The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman is “a onewoman show about the greatest American actress of the nineteenth century” (Carolyn Gage). Cushman was a larger-than-life, charismatic, commanding figure, famed for her “breeches” roles, who was not shy about her sexuality, her life, or her death. Confronted with her own mortality as she battled breast cancer, Gage’s Cushman offers insights into her relationships and her work, quoting some of her most memorable roles, in a work that is “Electrifying…enormously entertaining, absorbing, and brutally honest” (The Sunday Mail, Adelaide, Australia).
Charlotte: Rebecca Howard
Posters and Programs
Lost in Yonkers
Written by America’s great comic playwright, Neil Simon, this memory play is set in Yonkers in 1942. Bella is thirty-five years old, mentally challenged, and living at home with her mother, stern Grandma Kurnitz. As the play opens, ne’er-do-well son Eddie deposits his two young sons on the old lady’s doorstep. He is financially strapped and taking to the road as a salesman. The boys are left to contend with Grandma, with Bella and her secret romance, and with Louie, her brother, a small-time hoodlum in a strange new world called Yonkers.
Louie: Matt Benzing
Grandma Kurnitz: Nora Ellen Bowers
Eddie: Jeff Douglass
Arty: Trevor Fisher
Jay: Caylor Jarvis
Gert: Cathy McVey
Bella: Anne Settevendemie Ritz
Always a Bridesmaid
In this hilarious comedic romp, four friends have sworn to keep the promise they made on the night of their Senior Prom: to be in each other’s weddings…no matter what. More than thirty years later, these Southern friends-for-life are still making “the long walk” for each other, determined to honor that vow.
Libby: Trisha Cooper
Sedalia: Cate Hudson
Charlie: Annie Morris
Deedra: Dawna Peterson
Monette: Deb Richardson
Retreat from Moscow
A 2004 Tony nominee for Best Play, this play is about the end of a three-decade marriage and the subsequent emotional fallout. Edward and Alice have been married for 33 years. He is a teacher at a boys’ school, perfectly at home with his daily crossword and lately engrossed in reading about Napoleon’s costly invasion of Moscow. She is an observant Catholic, exacting and opinionated, and has been collecting poems about lost love for a new anthology. Jamie, their diffident thirty-two year old son, is visiting for the weekend when Edward announces he has met another woman. Retreat is about love, hatred, betrayal, sacrifice and the role that each can play in a decades-long marriage once the near-inevitable ennui sets in.
God of Carnage
Described as “savagely funny” by the International Herald Tribune, this comedy follows two sets of parents who meet after a playground fight between their sons to discuss the incident in a rational manner. As the evening goes on, the parents become increasingly childish, resulting in a chaotic clash of egos and accusations.