Sunday, March 25, 2012

Coming Next - "The President"

The Storm Theatre is proud to announce the next production in our 2011-12 season:

The President

by Ferenc Molnár
adapted by Morwyn Brebner

directed by Peter Dobbins

The Storm Theatre is proud to present the New York Premiere of THE PRESIDENT, by Ferenc Molnár, adapted by Morwyn Brebner!

In this fast-paced comedy, the clock starts ticking for a powerful bank president when the young heiress under his care announces her secret marriage to an impoverished Communist taxi driver. Faced with the imminent return of her parents (and the ensuing social disaster) what is a Chief Executive to do? Simply transform this unsuitable suitor into a perfectly well-bred, well-dressed, well-spoken capitalist son-in-law — all in under an hour!

Morwyn Brebner's adaptation of THE PRESIDENT made its World Premiere at the Shaw Festival in 2008, where it was hailed as by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. The Niagara Falls Review called it a "comic marathon performed at a breakneck pace with brilliant timing."

THE PRESIDENT opens on April 27 for a strictly limited run. Tickets are available now through SmartTix, our official online ticketing partner.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Big Things to Come

Artistic director Peter Dobbins, along with Producing Director Chance Michaels, has been negotiating the contract for our next production.

It will be a small change from our recent work, but perfectly in keeping with our ongoing mission.

We look forward to making the announcement soon - keep watching this space!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Times Readers Have Their Say

The Times critic had his say, now it's the readers' turn!
January 18th, 201211:28 am
Rating: 5 stars
1. ditto
I too was hesitant to attend a play so far out of the way for me. I was exhausted that evening, but completely forgot how tired I was about 10 minutes into the play. As a woman, I saw the life difficulties that led the temptress to her decisions...maybe she went further than the 10 commandments would permi, but hey, don't try to keep a good woman (some would quibble) down. Nonetheless, the play was filled with tension and enough surprises that it kept me fully involved and the 2 hours and change went quickly.

— Riley, NYC

January 19th, 20121:10 pm
Rating: 5 stars
2. Pleasantly Surprised
I saw the show because I had read the play in a theatre history class and was intrigued that someone was producing the show. The show was very good and had aged very well. The pacing was great, the language clear, and the themes felt very modern. There was not a weak actor in the company and they tackled difficult language and made it accessible. The staging and direction was clear without any gimmicks and the production values were high. The Storm Theatre and The Blackfriars Theatre company have done a great job in producing this show. Everything was very professional and first rate. It is nice to see independent theatre that is different and great.

— John M, New York, NY

January 22nd, 20121:24 pm
Rating: 3 stars
3. dress warmly
The theater in the church's basement was very cold -- there seemed to be very little or no heat.

Acting was good.

— marriane, easton, pa

January 23rd, 201210:28 am
Rating: 5 stars
4. Echoing the accolades
It really was a joyous event to discover such excellent stage actors and an 18th century play that truly has great relevance to our times. Millwood's diatribe about hypocrisy was stunning.

— parknyc, NYC
Thanks to everyone for their feedback.

Have you already seen The London Merchant? Write the Times and let them know what you think!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sold Out!

As of twenty minutes ago, we sold the last available ticket for The London Merchant.

We produce in a very intimate venue. Our contract with the actors' union limits us to a maximum seating capacity of 99, but based on the configuration of our performance space (dictated by the design of each individual production) capacity is sometimes much less.

The New York Times review has caused a great boom in ticket sales for The London Merchant, and led us to add additional performances to the end of the run. Those performances have now sold out, as have our original slate.

Congratulations to our cast and crew!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Held Over!

Today, we are pleased to announce that we are extending the sold-out run of The London Merchant (or The History of George Barnwell). After our rave review in the Times, we have added additional performances.

Tickets for these additional performances are available now through SmartTix - don't miss your opportunity to see this groundbreaking play in its North American premiere!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Times Review is in!

The New York Times review is in, and it's a rave!

Jessica Myhr as the prostitute who has Patrick Woodall in her power in this tragedy by George Lillo at the Theater of the Church of Notre Dame.
(photo © Michael Abrams)
A 1731 Morality Tale That Aged Well, Unlike Its Characters
Published: January 17, 2012

The long title of the play: “The London Merchant, or the History of George Barnwell.” The short review: excellent.

That’s a simple way to sum up this co-production by the Storm Theater and the Blackfriars Repertory Theater. But there’s no one word to convey the pleasure of discovering an exciting work when you’d been dreading a musty old relic.

“The London Merchant,” written by George Lillo and first performed in 1731, was a hit in the 18th century and has mostly vanished since. The tragedy centers on the title character, a young apprentice who falls under the spell of the scheming prostitute Millwood. She soon manipulates Barnwell into embezzling his employer’s money, then leads him to contemplate graver crimes.

Considered groundbreaking because of a plot that focused on working-class characters, this morality tale remains deliciously tense and dark; Lillo surely read his Shakespeare, for there are faint echoes of “Macbeth” and “Hamlet.” There’s also some fine poetry, and just a bit of stuffiness that betrays the script’s age, as does an occasional, and forgivable, didacticism.

As Barnwell, Patrick Woodall has an exceptional presence, particularly in soliloquy. Jessica Myhr, as Millwood, is captivating and coldly wicked. As Millwood’s servants, Michelle Kafel and Spencer Aste supply the welcome humor (with the clever Mr. Aste doubling as Barnwell’s uncle), while Joe Danbusky, Harlan Work and Megan Stern shine in supporting roles. All of the cast, directed on a clean, spare thrust stage by Peter Dobbins, exploit the underlying emotions to full effect, and Michael Abrams’s lighting heightens the foreboding mood.

There are so many surprises in the 2 hours and 10 minutes of “The London Merchant” that you may have to remind yourself that yes, you are in a basement that houses the Theater of the Church of Notre Dame, a space far off the radar of most audiences. That’s not a snobbish statement, but rather an acknowledgment that, in New York, out-of-the-way places can produce some first-rate theater.

“The London Merchant” continues through Jan. 28 at the Theater of the Church of Notre Dame, 405 West 114th Street, Morningside Heights; (212) 868-4444,
Congratulations to everyone in this amazing cast and crew. You've earned this.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The First Reviews!

The first reviews of The London Merchant are in!

Backstage has this to say:
It has been left to the enterprising Storm Theatre, in collaboration with the Blackfriars Repertory Theatre, to at last introduce the playwright George Lillo and his 1731 drama THE LONDON MERCHANT to New York. The play has been called "the first bourgeois tragedy," for instead of presenting the usual upper strata of English society, it focused on the merchant class, with characters that were immediately recognizable to a middle-class theatergoing audience. For Lillo, with his accent on Christian morality, this emerging group of capitalists was just as worthy of a fall from grace as their supposed betters. The play gained immediate popularity and became one of the most frequently performed plays of the 18th century, with its newfound focal point having considerable influence on later British and Continental playwriting.

So why has it lain hidden all these years? The story is a straightforward one, being a moral treatise on the road to ruin. As such there is little surprise and not a great deal of dramatic tension. Millwood (Jessica Myhr), "a lady of pleasure," has vowed to have her revenge on men. "Women are your universal prey," she observes. She sets her sights on an upright, innocent apprentice, George Barnwell (Patrick Woodall), who lives in the London house of his merchant master, Thorowgood (Joe Danbusky). Also in this house is a second apprentice, Trueman (Harlan Work), who is George's stalwart friend, and Thorowgood's daughter, Maria (Megan Stern), who is in love with George. We witness the respected George drawn into the web of the lovely, unscrupulous Millwood, who is aided in her evil scheme by her two servants, Lucy (Michelle Kafel) and Blunt (Spencer Aste). Soon poor George is awash in "this world of woe."

There is pleasure here in the formality of Lillo's language as he creates a glowing scene of goodness that is surprisingly convincing. But, as ever, it is the serpent in the garden who has the best lines. Lillo's delineation of Millwood's character is the most compelling aspect of the play. He makes her both captivating and complex; at her most devious she dissembles with a cunning grace. Though it was clearly never Lillo's intention, she has the makings of a feminist heroine.

Under the astute direction of Peter Dobbins, the well-spoken production has a pleasing bare-boards simplicity that captures the period. Myhr creates a young, attractive Millwood who is deliciously cool in all circumstances, perhaps too cool in her final damnation of men. Innocence is difficult to convey, but Woodall gives George a shining goodness that speaks well for the actor's future. There's a capable supporting cast, especially Danbusky and Work, while Maria Kousoulos' costumes, Michael Abrams' lighting, and David Thomas' sound design greatly assist this cautionary tale. Any student of dramatic history should hurry to make the acquaintance of Millwood and George and finally give George Lillo a welcome to New York.
TheatreMania contributes this:

Patrick Woodall and Harlan Work in The London Merchant.
(photo © Michael Abrams)
Talk about navigating your slippery slopes — that's what's facing young mercantile apprentice George Barnwell in George Lillo's 1731 play THE LONDON MERCHANT, being co-presented by the Storm Theatre and Blackfriars Repertory Theatre at the Church of Notre Dame under Peter Dobbins' straightforward direction.

Barnwell (Patrick Woodall) spends but one night succumbing to the charms of the manipulative and mercenary courtesan Sarah Millwood (Jessica Myhr), and he's immediately ready to commit embezzlement — and worse — for another taste of paradise.

Subtlety was not a strong suit for Lillo, whose characters — including Barnwell's master Thorowgood (played with impressive gravitas by Joe Danbusky) and George's fellow apprentice, Truman (Harlan Work) — tend to have assigned positions along the virtue/depravity spectrum.

But the work does have a somewhat surprisingly modern sensibility in its creation of Millwood. In a stirring mid-play speech, she lays the blame for her misdeeds on the parade of men who abused her: "Another and another spoiler came … all were alike wicked to the utmost of their power. In pride, contention, avarice, cruelty and revenge, the reverend priesthood were my unerring guides."

The play could have ended there, but unfortunately Lillo had a didactic mission to fulfill. We follow the lovers right to the brink of the gallows, where the unrepentant Millwood pants in terror as a duly shriven Barnwell beams, confident of a blissful reception on the other side. Fortunately, the acting has much merit, especially the work of Woodall and Myrh. If they can handle material this abstruse and antiquated this adeptly, just imagine what might happen once they sink their teeth into meatier matter.
The London Merchant is on a strictly limited engagement, and runs through January 28th. Tickets are available now through SmartTix - don't miss your opportunity to see this groundbreaking play in its North American premiere!