Monday, February 9, 2009

Banyah Theater Company season

Just in case you miss it, here is the 2009 Banyan Theater Company's season:

The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh, June 25-July 12 - Maureen Folan, a 40-year-old spinster, is the sole caregiver to her 70-year-old selfish, manipulative mother Mag. While her sisters have escaped into marriage and family life, Maureen, who has a history of mental illness, is trapped in a tiny cottage and a co-dependent, dysfunctional relationship with her mother. Maureen’s hopes are raised when the glimmer of a last-chance romance with a construction worker sparks up. Full of secrets, betrayals and surprises, this exciting blend of uproarious comedy, grand melodrama and bleak tragedy is a dramatic tour-de-force that will take audiences on an emotional roller coaster. Gil Lazier will direct The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which features actresses Jessica K. Peterson and Lisa Morgan.

Old Wicked Songs by Jon Marans, July 16-August 2 - Viennese Music Professor Josef Mashkan takes on a new student, the brash young American Stephen Hoffman. A piano prodigy whose concert career is suffering from severe burnout, Stephen thinks he will be addressing his performance problems with Professor Schiller and is dismayed to learn he must first study singing with Mashkan. His course of study is to be Schumann's magnificent Dichterliebe, 16 songs based on Heinrich Heine’s poems about love and loss. Mashkan’s denigration of Jewish culture further increases the tensions between the two men and they struggle to find common ground. As each man is forced to reveal his deepest secrets, a tale of loss and redemption unfolds, and the two generations begin to understand where life and fate have led them. Playwright Jon Marans will direct; cast includes Peter Thomasson.

Fat Pig by Neil LaBute, August 6-August 23 - Life is good for Tom. He’s successful at work, has some great friends, and a fantastic new girlfriend who is big and beautiful. He loves her, and that’s what counts. Isn’t it? When Tom’s office buddies and ex-girlfriend find out that he is seeing Helen, a “plus size” woman, it’s not long before the whispers and mockery turn to relationship sabotage, leading Tom to question if size does matter after all. Neil LaBute’s hit comedy (don’t let the title fool you) is a biting story of love and friendship, and a profound examination of the cultural influences that define “attractive” in our society. Fat Pig will be directed by Greg Leaming; Broadway actress Margot Moreland will play Helen.

New Play Reading series
The Banyan Theater Company will also be producing a professionally-staged play reading series, Banyan Becoming, at the Jane B. Cook Theatre in March, with 8 p.m. performance times. Banyan Becoming will showcase new plays about historical figures written by local playwrights. Audience members will be involved with the creative process through a discussion with the playwright, the actors and director Carole Kleinberg after each performance. Tickets (general admission) cost $15 each or $40 for the series.

E.G.O.: The Passions of Eugene Gladstone O’Neill by Jo Morello, March 9 - Raised in the theater as the son of matinee idol James O'Neill, Eugene O'Neill (Christopher Swan) struggled to measure up to and ultimately surpass his father. At 29, he had a wife and son behind him and a life of playwriting ahead, complicated by struggles with alcohol, disease and “the things life has done.” E.G.O., based on facts, explores O'Neill's passion to become a great playwright as he jettisoned anything and anybody that got in his way. Featuring Carolyn Michel as Carlotta Monterey, Gabriel V. Ortiz as Jamie O’Neill and Leah Page as Agnes Boulton.

The Other Sonya by Jolene Goldenthal, March 16 - The story of the Tolstoy marriage has become a legend ... how they first met when Sonya (Ann Morrison) was very young, how they married when she was just 18 and Lev (David S. Howard) was in his 30s, and how he left her when he was old and ill, dying in a village train station while she was forced to wait outside for news of him. The Other Sonya is an imagined exploration of their meeting, their life together and their final parting - events with resonance for today. Featuring Kathryn Ohrenstein as Sonitchka.

Angelina by Susan Jones Mannino, March 23 - Angelina Emily Grimké Weld (Susan Jones Mannino) was born into a wealthy, slave-owning family in Charleston, South Carolina in 1805. An outspoken abolitionist and religious rebel, she wrote an anti-slavery treatise which was published in The Liberator, and was the first woman to speak before the Massachusetts State Legislature. Facing threats of death and imprisonment, she continued to fight for a free country for all. In this one-woman show, Angelina shares intimate memories of her personal journey from aristocratic slave owner to passionate freedom fighter.

For more information about the Banyan Theater Company, call (941) 358-5330 or e-mail

The three-play season will be performed in the Jane B. Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, from June 25 through August 23, 2009. A three-show subscription costs $70, a two-show package is $52 and single tickets are $28.50. To purchase tickets, visit or call (941) 358-5330.

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