The American Repertory Theater presents Clifford Odets’s drama Paradise Lost, directed by Daniel Fish, from February 27 to March 20 at the Loeb Drama Center. Paradise Lost is the second production of the A.R.T.’s festival America: Boom, Bust and Baseball, which explores the hopes, disappointments, and triumphs of the past American century from the roaring twenties to the Great Depression, to the Boston Red Sox’s stunning 2004 World Series victory. Paradise Lost is a poetic, humane and distinctly American drama that examines the impact of money and greed on family business and love. Spring will be baseball season, with the world premiere of Johnny Baseball, a new musical about the Red Sox directed by A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, that explores the source of the infamous Curse and the secret to its end by blending fiction, fact, and the mystical power of the game, performing May 14 through June 27.
The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe and futures are at risk. The Gordon family, losing all they have worked for, strive to preserve their trust in each other and in the promise of their nation. Written by one of the greatest twentieth-century playwrights, Paradise Lost is a poetic, humane, and distinctly American drama that examines the impact of money and greed on family, business, and love. Odets considered Paradise Lost to be the favorite of his plays. First produced by the Group Theatre in 1935, the play voices the suffering, hope, and shattered dreams of a country in the throes of financial crisis. Three-quarters of a century later, Americans are still wrestling the demons of nihilism and idealism, charity and greed, self-interest and compassion.
Daniel Fish’s work has been seen at theaters across the country and abroad. Recent work includes Tartuffe, McCarter Theatre/Yale Repertory Theatre; The Elliott Smith Project at True Love Productions/Bard Summerscape; and Clifford Odets’ Rocket to the Moon, at Long Wharf Theatre and Bard Summerscape. Off-Broadway credits include the premieres of Charles L. Mee’s True Love at Zipper Theatre and Paradise Park at Signature Theatre; Ghosts at Center Stage; and the US premiere of The Woman Before by Roland Schimmelpfenning at German Theatre Abroad. He directed the premiere of Poor Beck by Joanna Laurens for the Royal Shakespeare Company (Stratford and London); Hamlet, Loot, The Importance of Being Earnest and The Learned Ladies at McCarter Theatre; Twelfth Night and The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Shakespeare Theatre, Washington DC; The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, and Cymbeline for California Shakespeare Theatre. His work has also been seen at Yale Repertory Theatre, The Wilma Theatre, Baltimore Centerstage, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Court Theatre, The Intiman Theatre, and The Juilliard School. He has worked as Associate Director to Sir Peter Hall and Michael Kahn and has taught at The Yale School of Drama and Princeton University.
Clifford Odets was born to Jewish immigrant parents in Philadelphia, in 1906. He was one of the original members of the New York City-based, avant-garde, left-wing ensemble Group Theatre formed in the early 1930s. Now considered the most influential American theater troupe of its time, Group was committed to radical revolutions in theater and focused on pressing social issues of the day. The Group Theatre also shunned celebrity and made their productions true collaborations, following the views espoused in their plays. After joining the American Communist Party in 1934, Odets used a taxi drivers’ strike from that year as the inspiration for his first play, Waiting for Lefty, produced in 1935. The play, starring future legendary film director Elia Kazan, was a huge success, thrilling its audience to the point of pandemonium. Odets also perfected the Company’s ambition to write plays in the authentic language of its working-class characters; his crackling, pitch-perfect dialogue brought an unprecedented level of social realism to the theater. Odets quickly followed the success of Waiting for Lefty with what many consider his masterpiece, Awake and Sing!. Paradise Lost soon followed, as well as Rocket to the Moon, Golden Boy, Night Music, and Clash by Night. He also wrote screenplays, including the adaptation of the novel The Sweet Smell of Success, a classic investigation into the cutthroat world of fame. Additional stage plays include Till the Day I Die, The Big Knife and The Country Girl. Odets died from cancer in 1963. Odets was the model for the idealistic titular playwright in the Coen brothers’ 1991 film Barton Fink, and is considered the defining American playwright of the 1930s and revered as one of drama’s greatest crusaders for social justice.
The Acting Company includes A.R.T. Associate Artist Remo Airaldi (60 productions at A.R.T.), as Phil Foley; Hale Appleman (Streamers at Roundabout Theatre and Huntington Theatre; film Beautiful Ohio) as Ben; Karl Bury (Brotherhood, The Sopranos, The Practice) as Kewpie; David Chandler (Death of a Salesman and Lost in Yonkers on Broadway) as Leo Gordon; A.R.T. Associate Artist Thomas Derrah (142 productions at A.R.T.) as Gus Michaels; returning actors Jonathan Epstein (Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Merchant of Venice, Phedre at A.R.T.) as Sam Katz, Merritt Janson (Britannicus, The Onion Cellar at A.R.T.; Twelfth Night and Othello at Shakespeare and Co.) as Libby Michaels, Adrianne Krstansky (Britannicus, Ubu Rock at A.R.T.) as Bertha Katz, and Michael Rudko (Hamlet, Hedda Gabler, The Seagull at A.R.T.) as Mr. Pike; T. Ryder Smith (Equus, Dead Man’s Cell Phone on Broadway, numerous productions at Richard Foreman’s Ontological), as Julie Gordon and Mr. May; Sally Wingert (longtime member of The Guthrie Theater) as Clara Gordon; and A.R.T. Institute actors Therese Plaehn as Pearl Gordon and Cameron Oro as Felix.
Production Artists include Scenic Designer Andrew Lieberman (Head of Scenic Design at Tisch School for the Performing Arts; designs for theater, opera worldwide), Costume Designer Kaye Voyce (The Bacchae, Delacorte Theater, Stop Kiss, The Public Theater; Tartuffe, Court Theatre, Jefferson Award); Lighting Designer Scott Zielinski (A.R.T.: Donnie Darko, Oliver Twist, Three Sisters, Dido, Queen of Carthage, Black Snow, Woyzeck, Peter Pan and Wendy. Topdog/Underdog (Broadway), and theaters nationwide; Sound Designer Clive Goodwin (BBC London, and productions throughout England); and Video Designer Joshua Thorson (International Film Festival Rotterdam, Museum of Modern Art, New Museum, MIX, New York; Cinema Texas).