World Premiere of ‘Love in the Wars’ – New Kleist Adaptation by John Banville – at Bard SummerScape

Chris Stack and Birgit Huppuch in 'Love in the Wars' (photo Julieta Cervantes)

Chris Stack and Birgit Huppuch in ‘Love in the Wars’ (photo Julieta Cervantes)

(ANNANDALE-on-HUDSON, N.Y.) – Love in the Wars, a theatrical adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist’s romantic drama Penthesilea by Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville, receives its world premiere at Bard SummerScape 2014 in two previews and eight performances between Thursday, July 10, 2014, and Sunday, July 20, in Theater Two of the Fisher Center at Bard College.

Starring Obie Award-winner Birgit Huppuch and One Life to Live’s Chris Stack, Bard’s premiere production is by Ken Rus Schmoll, the Obie Award-winning director “whose name attached to a show most warms us with optimism” (Village Voice).

As in previous years, SummerScape is keyed to the theme of the Bard Music Festival, now celebrating its 25th anniversary season with an exploration of “Schubert and His World.” The German poet, dramatist and novelist Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811) – Schubert’s close contemporary – is now recognized as “by far the most important North German dramatist of the Romantic movement” (Encyclopedia Brittanica), yet his work was all but forgotten until its early 20th-century rehabilitation by such luminaries as Rilke, Kafka, and Thomas Mann. Kleist’s romantic drama Penthesilea, drawn loosely from Homer, recounts the meeting between its eponymous heroine, the Queen of the Amazons, and the Greek hero Achilles; the ferocity of her passion collides with his stubborn will, setting in motion a tragicomedy of love and misunderstanding that threatens to derail the course of history.

Receiving its world premiere at Bard, Love in the Wars offers a fresh take on Kleist’s Penitheslea at the hand of esteemed author John Banville, whose numerous honors include the 2005 Man Booker Prize for his 14th novel, The Sea, as well as the 1989 Guinness Peat Aviation award, the 2011 Franz Kafka Prize, the 2013 Irish PEN Award, and the 2013 Austrian State Prize for European Literature.

Banville is also the man behind the eight “lovely and luminous” (New York Times) best-selling mystery novels written under the name Benjamin Black, including Vengeance, Christine Falls, and the new The Black-Eyed Blonde. Kleist’s lucid prose has long exerted a profound influence on the Irish novelist, who is considered “one of the great stylists writing in English today” (Boston Globe). A production of Banville’s adaptation of another Kleist play, The Broken Jug, prompted Theatre Journal to conclude: “While the illumination certainly has at its core Kleist’s own genius, he is served with tremendous flourish by his adapter.”

Chris Stack and Birgit Huppuch in 'Love in the Wars' (photo Julieta Cervantes)

Chris Stack and Birgit Huppuch in ‘Love in the Wars’ (photo Julieta Cervantes)

SummerScape’s world premiere presentation of Love in the Wars is the creation of two-time Obie Award-winner Ken Rus Schmoll – hailed as “adventurous” and “inventive” by the New York Times – who makes his SummerScape debut after a string of recent Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway successes. Set design is by Marsha Ginsberg, whose “hip, interesting, and original” (Los Angeles Times) work has graced such venues as the Metropolitan Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York Theatre Workshop, and Glimmerglass Opera; with lighting by Henry Hewes Design Award-winner Tyler Micoleau; sound by Leah Gelpe, who won the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Sound Design; and costumes by Oana Botez, whose New York credits include The Master and Margarita at SummerScape last season, as well as productions at BAM and the Public Theater.

Birgit Huppuch, a “bona fide tour de force” (New York Times), whose previous collaborations with the director include her Obie Award-winning Off-Broadway turn in Telephone, and whose other stage work includes many acclaimed roles with The Pig Iron Theater Company (most recently in their Twelfth Night Off-Broadway), stars as the Amazon queen Penthesilea.

Opposite her, as her prisoner-of-war Achilles, is Chris Stack, best-known as Dr. Michael McBain on ABC’s One Life to Live and for his recent stage work at Soho Rep (Marie Antoinette) and Playwrights Horizons (Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra). Karen Pittman, as seen on TV’s House of Cards and The Americans and on Broadway in Passing Strange, plays the queen’s confidante, Prothoe, with “the always suberb” (Village Voice) Karen Kandel (fresh from Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information at New York Theatre Workshop) as the Amazon High Priestess, and Stacey Yen (recently seen Off-Broadway in Eager to Lose at Ars Nova) as the Amazon warrior Asteria. Chad Goodridge, a breakout talent after appearing in Passing Strange on Broadway, portrays Greek warrior Diomedes, alongside “acting standout” (Broadway World) KeiLyn Durrel Jones as the Greeks’ leader, Agamemnon. Additional members of Bard’s first-rate cast will be announced soon.

SummerScape’s theatrical track record is a stellar one. Last season, when the festival premiered an original stage adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s seminal novel The Master and Margarita from visionary Hungarian director János Szász, Time Out New York pronounced it “a radically re-imagined stage version of the Bulgakov classic,” which successfully captured “the dark electricity that emanates from the classic itself, the tingle of being an innocent reader trapped between two magnetic poles.” Similarly, the festival scored an unequivocal hit in 2012 with Erica Schmidt’s all-male production of Molière’s classic comedy of manners The Imaginary Invalid, which featured Peter Dinklage. Time Out New York accorded the production a five-star rating; the Financial Times found that “part of the beauty of this Invalid [was] the fluency with which Schmidt marrie[d] period detail with contemporary intonations”; and Theatermania assured theatergoers they would find “ample reason to smile … from the moment they walk into the theater at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College until the moment they leave.”

Previews:

Thursday, July 10 at 7:30pm

Friday, July 11 at 7:30pm

(Tickets: $35)

 

Performances:

Thursday, July 10 at 7:30pm (preview)

Friday, July 11 at 7:30pm (preview)

Saturday, July 12 at 7:30pm *

Sunday, July 13 at 2pm *

Wednesday, July 16 at 2pm

Thursday, July 17 at 7:30pm

Friday, July 18 at 7:30pm

Saturday, July 19 at 2pm

Saturday, July 19 at 7:30pm

Sunday, July 20 at 2pm *

(Tickets: $25–$50)

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