"...this was the best theatrical experience I have had in a long time. Every element, the location, the performances, the script, the audience, the meal served at intermission. . . everything created a magical moment that truly resonated the value of the arts to our society."
- Woman Wielding Words
LAB 1: RESTORATION COMEDY
BY AMY FREED (NEW YORK PREMIERE)
Restoration Comedy is a radical combination of two plays – Colley Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift and John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse. Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift was 1696’s biggest hit. Vanbrugh so despised the play that he wrote a sequel to undo everything he found inauthentic, creating The Relapse – which became the rival sensation of the season. The combination of these plays– itself an homage to the Restoration fad of sublimating existing sources – brings us smack into the middle of a thoroughly modern marriage debate: is it a legal union, or a stitching of souls?
"Talent you need to know about. Discover the best-kept secret in town."
- Tony Award winner Patina Miller
"Extraordinary hearts, minds and food in the coolest space in town ... EPBB makes me remember why I first fell in love with theatre. I want to live there!"
- Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Freed on the Lab experience.
LAB 2: THESE SEVEN SICKNESSES
BY SEAN GRANEY (PREMIERE)
Oedipus Rex, Women of Trachis, Philoktetes, Oedipus in Colonus, Ajax, Elektra, and Antigone are given stunning new life by Sean Graney (The Hypocrites, Chicago), who infuses these extraordinary masterpieces with wit, irreverence, and grace in this adaptation of the existing Sophocles canon. A marathon experience.
"[T]he most intimate, inclusive and enjoyable night at the theatre this year."
- Critical Confabulations - Top 10 of 2011
"My God. We just saw the ENTIRE Sophocles canon. AND the work was great. AND we got fed. AND met really cool people. Really. I can honestly say I've never had an evening like that."
- HELL ON WHEELS' Anson Mount
LAB 3: LESSER MERCIES
BY JASON WILLIAMSON
Set during the advent of the Civil War, this poetic and profound new work examines issues of racial identity and human violence through the lens of crumbling Antebellum North Carolina.
"One of my favorite nights of theater of all time...a really extraordinary experience. Good food, good company, good theater, good space, good everything."
- Brett Dalton, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The talent is amazing and the raw closeness to the process for the audience is a unique experience in theatre."
- Diane Dreher
LAB 4: LEAR
SHAKESPEARE'S KING LEAR, CONCEPT BY REGGIE JACKSON (PREMIERE)
A re-examination of a timeless classic set in the 1980s drag ball culture of NYC, King Lear reimagines the titular King as the Ultimate Queen: the 40 year-old gay, black, HIV-positive Mother of the House of Lear who gives up her kingdom to her adopted daughters in preparation for her slow crawl to death. The inimitable Billy Porter stars as Mother Lear.
"...there is no more enjoyable [Lear] than the one Mr. Iskandar has concocted. Lounging on sofas...[we] were treated to pre-show libations served by a cast chock full of Broadway veterans...Good good, good service, good company, and good THEATRE!"
"force of Nature, Billy Porter, serves us a Bold...scenery chewing, yet textured re-imaging of the titular Lear that is pure theater gold. Director Iskandar & his [collaborators] revive the word "ensemble" in its truest sense."
- Rod Gailes, Indie Wire
LAB 5: AROK OF JAVA
DEVISED BASED ON THE WORK OF NOBEL NOMINEE PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER (PREMIERE)
Boris Godunov meets Robin Hood in this tale of a 13th-century Indonesian bandit who appears out of nowhere to lead the peasant class into a centuries-long rebellion against the ruling merchant class that is still ongoing today.
"I quickly settled on a settee and fell into conversation with my neighbours, whilst having my feet washed...
The direction of the play was striking, well suited to both the play and the layout of the space."
- Allison Robinson
LAB 6: THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HEDDA GABLER
BY JEFF WHITTY (NEW YORK PREMIERE)
Beginning immediately after Henrik Ibsen's classic ends, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler finds Hedda mired in an alternative hell: a place where death is only possible when a fictional character is forgotten by the real-life public.
"Somehow, amidst the media frenzy, the social media overload, and the advertisement excess, EPBB managed to get back to what theatre is really about: a communal experience completely unique and never reproducible."
"Both [Jeff Whitty & Billy Porter] played these female roles with poignancy and humor and true empathy. Each member of the ensemble just added to the power of this performance."
- Woman Wielding Words
LAB 7: GREATER ANGELS*
BY JASON WILLIAMSON
*Greater Angels is supported in part by The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project.
After evading a lynch mob, fraternal twins Elias and Gideon are going west to escape the clutches of the Civil War. Fate entraps them aboard a union ship, where they must navigate dangerous waters, shifting loyalties and unpredictable new friends: runaway slave Charity, tortured inventor Thaddeus and his lonely wife Leontine. This brave, lyrical new play asks the question: Is there such a thing as Just War?
"...the play exposes brilliantly the idea that neither the challenges that we face as human beings, nor the solutions....can be found by thinking within the confines of a binary system (good/evil, black/white, Democrat/Republican, and so on)."
LAB 8: DANI GIRL
MUSIC BY MICHAEL KOOMAN
BOOK AND LYRICS BY CHRISTOPHER DIMOND
When Dani, a precocious nine year old, loses her hair to leukemia, she embarks on a magical journey in order to get it back. Simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, Dani Girl is a tale of life in the face of death, hope in the face of despair, and the indomitable power of the human imagination.
"Yes, the cast was stellar...but I am in awe of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar's imaginative direction and use of the space.
EPBB invited us into their home, a loft in midtown, served us dinner and wine, and showed the audience what theatre can be: a full evening and communal gathering of people discussing important topics..."
- Greyman Theatre Co.