'The Tenant' at Theatre for the New City
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"The Tenant" by Bill Donnelly is a play in which a working-class midtown couple take a Korean immigrant woman into their hearts. Depending on how you see it, it becomes the tragedy of a lonely woman's unsuccessful act of kindness or the perilous seduction of an innocent couple by her mystic approach to love, life and healing. It's a bittersweet everyday story of love and destiny with a "Twilight Zone" touch. Theater for the New City will present the play November 15 to December 2, directed by Vincent J. Balzano.
Sam and Babe are the loving, hard working superintendents of a midtown apartment building, into which moves a waifish young Korean woman named Lucky Star. She is deeply Catholic; she is also a numerologist and a healer. She was raised by nuns in Korea and was imprisoned for fighting off her abusive husband with a knife. She inspires pity and support in the American couple, who offer small favors to make her apartment more liveable and to help her start over in New York.
Lucky Star is in an odd state of grace, which Babe hopes to gain from and which Sam finds mysteriously alluring. She worked in a "Barber Shop" (a front for a house of prostitution) in her past, but now in New York, she struggles to redeem herself with the purity of the Virgin Mother. When Babe falls tragically ill, she seeks healing through Lucky Star's herbal potions and massages. When Sam loses Babe, he seeks to replace the loss of his wife with the Korean newcomer; she wants to soothe his loneliness but not give him sex. Love, sex and compassion are forces of Nature, but they are out of kilter, as ferociously narrated by Romeo, the pet parrot of Babe and Sam, who is played by a fourth actor. Perceiving the events of the play from his roost in the kitchen, Romeo's dramatic role is that of an amusing, wise Greek Chorus. He represents Nature in a play that artfully balances between the paranormal and the simply disturbing events of everyday life.
This is a first New York full production for playwright Bill Donnelly, whose plays have unfolded over many years while he maintained a career in international law. As a young playwright, he was encouraged by the young Ellen Stewart, founding director of La MaMa Experimental Theater Club, although his plays were not produced by La MaMa. While he worked and lived in Belgium, his plays were championed by the prominent director Andre Ernotte. Donnelly's body of work includes three conventional plays, a full-length musical and a trilogy named "La Valse: Night, Candles, Dawn" that is a new art form called Baloperama®--a synchronous fusion of ballet, opera and drama--and will possibly be mounted in the near future. "The Tenant" is a play that had been gestating for a while but burst from Donnelly's mind in 1994, encouraged and facilitated by Bonnie J. Monte, Artistic Director of Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, who directed the play's first reading. The play had staged readings at The Dramatists Guild in 2006, at The Sage Theater in Midtown, NYC in 2007 and at the Bickford Theater at the Morris Museum, NJ, in 2009. It was chosen by the Dramatists Guild in 2010 with seven others in a national competition for the author to attend a special boot camp on the production side of playwriting. In Spring of 2011, "The Tenant" had a very successful four week workshop at The Producers’ Club on West 44th Street, directed by Vincent J. Balzano.
Donnelly lives in Tyler Hill, PA but was a long time resident of Morristown, NJ, where he was president of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce for ten years, following a long career as an attorney with Warner-Lambert Company. During his legal and business career, Donnelly wrote avidly and has been recently energized, thanks partly to "The Tenant" being chosen as one of eight plays by the Dramatists Guild of America to participate in a Self-Production Boot Camp.
Director Vincent J. Balzano has been an actor and director for many years, working primarily in and around the tri state area. He has also produced a number of shows and benefits and has directed numerous productions, including "Two By Two," "It’s Only a Play," "How to Succeed…," "The Imaginary Invalid," "The Sisters Rosenswieg" and "You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown."
Lucky Star is played by Vivian Chu, Sam is played by Carson Lee, Babe is played by Alexandra Lawrence and Romeo, the Parrot, is played by David Rothstadt. The design team are all resident artists of Theater for the New City: set Design is by Mark Marcante; lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff and costume design is by Susan Hemley. The parrot costume and general design assistance are by Lytza Colon.