Monday, July 28, 2014

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U.Va. Drama Department To Open Spring Season With ‘God’s Ear’

Love, loss and language take center stage when the U.Va. Department of Drama’s production of “God’s Ear” opens Thursday in the Helms Theatre.

Playwright Jenny Schwartz’s recent work depicts the power of language to enlighten and obscure when a couple is unable to escape their grief following a tragedy.

Director Sandy Shinner is the guest artist for this production. She has directed more than 100 plays, many of them world premieres at Chicago’s Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater, her artistic home for 33 years. Victory Gardens is a theater dedicated to staging new works, so it is no accident that U.Va. Drama paired Shinner with the work of Schwartz, an emerging playwright.

Shinner has worked with playwrights Sarah Ruhl, Theresa Rebeck, Joel Drake Johnson, Jeffrey Sweet and John Logan, among others. Her directing work has also been seen off-Broadway, and at Actors Theater of Louisville's Humana Festival, Steppenwolf Theatre's First Look, Theatre of the First Amendment, Sacramento Theater Company, Rivendell Theater Ensemble and American Blues Theater.

When “God’s Ear” premiered off-off Broadway in 2007, The New York Times wrote, “Ms. Schwartz has surely been inspired by various canonical playwrights of the absurd (particularly Ionesco), and by later innovators like Caryl Churchill. … But her witty linguistic collages have their own rhythms and rules, reflecting the attitude of a generation that takes for granted the cosmic banality of everyday discourse and the disjunction between emotion and expression that is the hallmark of the post-ironic age – the youth whose response to the confusions of the world is a cosmic ‘whatever.’”

Shinner adds, “How interesting, then, for the U.Va. Department of Drama to juxtapose this past fall’s show, Ionesco’s 1959 masterpiece ‘Rhinoceros,’ with Schwartz’s ‘God’s Ear.’ And what better place than the college campus to present an original new voice, a ‘major new playwright’ who is obsessed with today’s language; a writer who uses clichés, misremembered idioms and fragments of dialogue to hilarious effect while telling a story of an undeniable personal tragedy.

“In ‘God’s Ear,’ the characters keep crashing against the limits of language. Mel and Ted try to stop their marriage from unraveling after the accidental death of their son. They cope by using torrents of words to avoid pain, or to try to be heard, or to escape. And they must navigate their way through a highly original world in which the Tooth Fairy and GI Joe dispense words of wisdom.”

“God’s Ear” will be presented in the Helms Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and again Feb. 26 through 28 and March 1 and 2.

Ticket are $14 ($12 for seniors and U.Va. faculty, staff and U.Va. Alumni Association members and $8 for students). They are available online, by calling 434-924-3376 or in person weekdays from noon until 5 p.m. at the U.Va. Arts Box Office in the lobby of the U.Va. Drama building on Culbreth Road. A $3.75 processing fee applies to all online or phone orders.

In addition to “God’s Ear,” the U.Va. Department of Drama will present the classic American comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” in April, which will be the inaugural production of the Ruth Caplin Theatre.

Free parking for all U.Va. Drama performances is available at the Culbreth Road Parking Garage, conveniently located alongside the Drama Building.

For information on the 2012-13 U.Va. Department of Drama season, visit the department website.

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