|In Arabia We'd All Be Kings
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FULL PRESS RELEASE FOLLOWS REVIEWS
No way to treat a king
Those living on society's margins have a tough time in
'In Arabia We'd All Be Kings.'
By Charlotte Stoudt
Special to The Times
February 2, 2007
Packed into the tiny Elephant Space Theatre, even the audience in the back row could call out a drink order to the bartender on set designer Joel Daavid's shabby Hell's Kitchen watering hole.
Not a bad idea — a cocktail might take the sting out of being occupied. As the title of Stephen Adly Guirgis' play suggests, "In Arabia We'd All Be Kings," but in late 1990s Manhattan, things aren't so sweet with Rudy Giuliani sweeping the undesirables off midtown streets to make way for Walt Disney. Tough times for ex-con Lenny (Jason Warren), who can't even get a gig hustling credit card fliers, or Skank (Steven Schub), bargaining sex to pay for a morning smoke. Meanwhile, Charlie (Torrance Jordan) is all torn up over Skank's girlfriend, Chickie (Jade Dornfeld), on the streets trying to teach teenage mother Demaris (Carolina Espiro) the finer points of tricking.
Even their one safe zone, the neighborhood bar, won't survive this wave of gentrification. In "Arabia," prosperity's got a hard heart; as one character puts it, "Disney's spreading, just like the AIDS." The only trickle-down around here is the leak in the men's room sink.
This Elephant Theatre Company staging, produced in association with VS. Theatre Company, marks the L.A. premiere of the play that put Guirgis (and LAByrinth Theater Company cohort Philip Seymour Hoffman) on the map. Guirgis has gone on to write gritty, character-driven dramas and has honed a style that burrows through the profane to grasp at the sacred. His protagonists may be junkies and parolees, but they're no different from us. Life comes down to a series of small, desperate negotiations, whether it's for a pack of mini-doughnuts or a last chance at love.
David Fofi, one of L.A.'s best directors, keeps his exceptional cast grounded in each moment; their comedy and heartbreak feels equally earned, and the artistic discipline on view here finds strong chemistry with the play's outsized rhythms.
Guirgis isn't much for narrative momentum or closure but "Arabia" carries an undeniably cumulative power. When the actors stand onstage together for the curtain call, they don't break character and take a bow but merely regard us. Their stillness gives space to a fragile sense of community that is Guirgis' fever dream of connection, of true love among the ruins.
— Charlotte Stoudt
Like some of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ other plays, this one toasts New York City with a cocktail that is equal parts Hubert Selby Jr. and Damon Runyon. The setting is the soon-to-be-gentrified Hell’s Kitchen area west of Times Square. Parolee Lenny (Jason Warren) returns to the old neighborhood only to find that during his absence, friends have died and real estate’s gone up. The moral isn’t that times change for the worse, however, but that for some people, times are always bad — it just takes a stretch upstate for them to notice. The action unfolds on Joel Daavid’s wonderfully detailed bar set that Daavid also lights with feeble, subterranean illumination. It’s a forlorn place not because it’s a dive, but because it’s desperately trying not to look like one... director David Fofi plays the personal conflicts like a pinball wizard and has assembled standouts including Tim Starks as a self-motivated wheeler-dealer named Greer, and George Russo as the bar’s misanthropic owner, Jake.
In Arabia We'd All Be Kings
(Elephant Asylum, Hollywood; 70 seats; $20 top)
An Elephant Theater Company in association with VS. Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Directed by David Fofi.
Lenny - Jason Warren
Skank - Steven Schub
Daisy - Bernadette Speakes
Sammy - Dan Gilvary
Mrs. Reyes - Patricia Rae
Demaris - Carolina Espiro
Vic/Carroll - Kenny Suarez
Charlie - Torrance Jordan
Chickie - Jade Dornfeld
Greer - Tim Starks
Holy Roller - Charlie Romanelli
Jake - George Russo
Scripter Stephen Adly Guirgis' powerful legiter, "In Arabia We'd All Be Kings," takes a jaundiced look at Mayor Rudy Giuliani's 1990s New York City beautification project and its effect on a group of low-rung Hell's Kitchen locals. Helmer David Fofi infuses Guirgis' agenda with a perfectly cast 12-member ensemble that embodies the woebegone urbanites whose shaky sense of stability has been totally disrupted.
Joel Daavid's impressively wrought, grime-imbued West 43rd Street neighborhood bar is shown in a series of 10 scenes, spanning three days. Recent Ryker's parolee Lenny (Jason Warren) returns to his former surroundings only to discover the mayor's "Disneyfication" of the city has created an aura of hopeless desperation among his old friends and neighbors.
From aging sexpot Mrs. Reyes (Patricia Rae) and her embittered, gun-toting 17-year-old daughter Demaris (Carolina Espiro), Lenny learns that most of his former acquaintances are either dead, in jail or have been pushed out by gentrification.
What's left is a band of dead-eyed survivors who don't possess the wherewithal to do anything but wait for extinction. This includes: Lenny's supposed live-in girlfriend Daisy (Bernadette Speakes); once-promising young actor turned crackhead Skank (Steven Schub) and his achingly waifish but equally addicted girlfriend Chickie (Jade Dornfeld); kindly but mentally challenged bartender Charlie (Torrance Jordan); and Sammy (Dan Gilvary), the aged alcoholic purveyor of short bursts of often unintelligible wisdom.
Feeding on this motley group are such sleazy vultures as razor-tongued bar owner Jake (George Russo), real estate entrepreneur Greer (Tim Starks) and Holy Roller (Charlie Romanelli), the always-smiling lethal dispenser of God's justice.
Fofi, ably abetted by the evocative production designs of Daavid (lighting), Gelareh Khalioun (costumes) and Christopher Game (sound) empathetically drives the action, never allowing Guirgis' unrelenting sense of tragedy to falter, even through the many scene changes.
In one painfully sad but funny street scene, Chickie unsuccessfully tries to teach relentlessly foul-mouthed, viper-faced Demaris how to turn tricks. Despite Chickie's urging, "You've go to be like a party waiting to happen," Demaris' militancy only scares the prospective Johns away. Chickie suggests, "You could do something else to get money, like rob."
"In Arabia We'd All Be Kings" offers no sociological lessons about the failures of society. This synergistic partnering of scripter, helmer and thesps emphatically underscores the tragic truth that the human psyche yearns for stability and will eventually accept any remnant of it that can be found.
Sets, Joel Daavid; costumes, Gelareh Khalioun; lighting, Daavid; sound, Christopher Game; stage manager, Shannon Simonds. Opened, Jan. 26, 2007. Reviewed, March 16; closes April 21. Running time: 2 HOURS.
-- Review By JULIO MARTINEZ
PICK OF THE WEEK
In Arabia We’d All Be Kings
Elephant Theatre Company
When we first heard the title, the first reaction was “Oh no! Not another story about the war in Iraq!” Thankfully, we were so way off that by contrast this story is a breath of fresh air.
That needs some clarification. This is not a feel good story, or the kind that renews your faith in humanity, but at least it does not deal with a detestable war waged by a megalomaniac. This is a compelling exposition of the inner wars waged in the minds and souls of an underclass of people desperately clawing to find some meaning or purpose, managing only to grab smoke rings.
Stephen Adly Guirgis has penned a story that takes place almost entirely in a bar in New York’s Hell Kitchen–the kind of neighborhood bar where regulars drift in and out, where relationships are made and broken and where comfort is sought at the bottom of a half-washed gin glass, often creating more problems than are solved.
Here we meet the likes of Lenny, a parolee trying to find his way back in society who usually gets derailed by jealousy over Daisy, his erstwhile loyal girl friend. Lenny suffers from a wavering self-confidence in his manhood after six years in jail, so he bullies the drugged out Skank, a junkie who can hardly remember yesterday and has a crack whore of a girlfriend who tricks for drugs. The corner of the bar is Sammy’s space, a retired bus driver who seems to be asleep, occasionally waking to ask if his wife Gladys is there, and then curses her when he learns she’s not. Mrs. Reyes and her daughter Demaris fly in and out, Reyes being a sexy Puerto Rican woman who teases with her well endowed body and brags about her last three husbands who are in jail. Demaris, a teenage mom, has a hair trigger temper, packs a gun and has no clue as to how to break from the mother and become independent, so she tries streetwalking to make money, taking pointers from Chickie, Skank’s girlfriend. However, when “Johns” approach her, she curses them out and runs them off, leading Chickie to comment that maybe this business is not right for her.
Under David Fofi’s studied direction, the environment becomes hauntingly real. Set designer Joel Daavid’s genius shines again with his carefully thought out shadowy scenes, carefully observing minute details, down to crushed cigarette butts on the floor. But what makes this bristle with tension is the collective excellence of the actors, all of whom perform brilliantly. Steven Schub is electrifying as the strung out junkie. Schub explores the innermost entrails of a man with an “almost there” past and an “hour to hour” future with sensitivity and understanding bringing a horrifying realism to the role. Equally powerful is Jade Dornfeld who makes crack addicted Chickie a pitiable waif with no hope for redemption. Carolina Espiro is explosive in the role of Demaris as she captures the undertones of a woman whose outward bravado is meant to hide her frightened insecurities. Dan Gilvar as Sammy has few lines but is always present, sitting in his corner spouting occasional cynical mutterings, which anchor the theme of the story. In contrast, Tim Starks as Greer, is the only one who has no financial problems, but has a lot of sexual baggage to plow through,
The other great performances are by Jason Warren, Bernadette Speakes, Patricia Rae, George Russo, Charles Pacello, Torrance Jordan, Tim Starks and Charlie Romanelli with Kenny Suarez, Brett Hren, Marlene Forte and Maya Parish as alternates.
If you take any message from these people it might be that you hope never to join them, and if you know someone like them, you might be more compelled to understand them. If these people are the bottom of the scale and Sammy feels that in Arabia they would all be kings, what does that say about the people of Arabia? Reservations at (323) 962-0046.
PICK OF THE WEEK
The play has been extended to March 17, 2007.
(by Jose Ruiz
In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings
February 07, 2007
By Les Spindle
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis (Our Lady of 121st Street, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train) has been heralded by critics as a fast-rising talent. In the L.A. premiere of his first work, it's easy to see why. This fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the hearts and souls of lowlife denizens of a seedy Hell's Kitchen bar during Mayor Rudy Giuliani's mid-1990s "Disneyfication" of Manhattan is the tragicomic gem that Tennessee Williams' misfired Small Craft Warnings should have been. And it's hard to imagine a finer realization of the play's profound human truths than in director David Fofi's magnificently acted and impeccably mounted rendition.
The refuge where the flotsam of society gather to laugh, cry, love, feud, space out on booze and drugs, and run con games on one another is generically identified in Joel Daavid's marvelously authentic scenic and lighting design by a neon sign labeled "Bar." This might be just one sleazy dive among the thousands located on the fringes of America's urban landscape, but it's inhabited by living and breathing—and deeply troubled—humans seeking camaraderie and purpose in life.
Guirgis seems less concerned with spinning a conventional linear narrative than with vividly and realistically portraying the sundry conflicts of his desperate characters, whose disparate concerns gradually dovetail into a meaningful thematic whole. In Fofi's superbly nuanced interpretation, raucous hilarity segues to heartbreak and fear in a heartbeat. He's aided enormously by a seamless ensemble. In the pivotal role of a loudmouth businessman, Tim Starks does a bang-up job of representing the ostensibly respectable society members who are drawn to ghettos to prey on the misery of the downtrodden.
Also very compelling is Jason Warren's gun-toting ex-con whose façade as a bully can't disguise his deep-seated insecurities and anguish. Jade Dornfeld mesmerizes as a childlike waif to whom prostitution and crack addiction seem an ordinary lot in life. Equally fine are Carolina Espiro's embittered unwed mother, Bernadette Speakes' hard-edged yet compassionate opportunist, and Steven Schub's drug-crazed failed actor, plus brilliant contributions from Dan Gilvary, Torrance Jordan, Patricia Rae, George Russo, Charles Pacello, Bret Hren, and Charlie Romanelli. Fofi's smashing production makes one want to immediately view another Guirgis play.
SHA IN LA
" amazing and beautiful... award winning performances"
-Sha in LA
LA'S THE PLACE MAGAZINE
"entertaining...comical...strong performances "
- LA's The Place
The Elephant Theatre sits on the eastern edge of Theater Row, an area bordered by the pompous beauty of West Hollywood and the unreconstructed grit of Hollywood proper. It’s a nasty, dirty part of town, one that gives that peculiar feel of guilt, horror and a strong desire for another $12 cocktail at a too-hip-to-have-a-name bar.
And it’s perfect.
“In Arabia We’d All Be Kings” is set in Hell’s Kitchen, a part of Manhattan noted for its honesty in advertising. Or, so it used to be. During the late 1990s, the ‘Kitchen closed, slowly morphing into hipster land, sporting high-end restaurants and no-name bars similar to the ones three blocks north of the Elephant.
The play itself takes place in a bar, and the characters themselves are like moving pieces of the beautifully designed set. They serve as archetypes of the neighborhood that was: the parolee, the whore, the druggie, the old drunk, a sycophantic bartender, opportunistic investors and a teenager with a hair-trigger.
The plot is loose, roughly revolving an imminent sale of the bar and its affect on the characters. Though clearly about gentrification, the play raises questions it does not intend to answer. Does the closing of the bar makes the characters lives better or worse? Is Hell’s Kitchen worth saving?
The plot, such that it is, clearly takes a back seat to the portraits of the characters, presented as a series of well-told vignettes. This is where the play shines. The acting and directing are fluid, the characters vibrant and real. During one particularly poignant part of the play, a woman behind me broke out into loud sobs. I had a lump in my throat myself.
Written by Dan the L.A. City Bureaucrat on Friday March 02nd 2007
‘In Arabia We’d All Be Kings’ – Theatre at Its Finest
By M. Jarrett Christensen
LOS ANGELES – Like wildlife pushed toward extinction, urban renovation threatens the existence of society’s darker side. We witness the obliteration of house and soul of a part of Hell’s Kitchen, under threat of the homogenized conformity of Giuliani’s gentrification of NYC. Set in the mid-nineties, these are the refugees that cling to an ideal that no longer exists. Even through the direst of circumstances, their humanity shines through.
In Arabia We’d All Be Kings opens wounds that are never allowed to heal. Such pain and torment is tragically poetic. Their kind of life that now has been inexorably altered. Each character cannot escape the crushing gears of change.
The pacing is exquisite as comedy is blended with tragedy without missing a beat, like a precise rhythm instrument. All the performances were absolutely excellent; standouts were Carolina Espiro as Demaris, a conflicted girl who is forced to darkness. Jade Dornfield as Chickie shines as an Anima whose addiction leads her to destruction. Tim Starks has commanding presence as Greer, whose wealthy veneer hides a shady side.
This is theatre supreme that thrusts a brazen realism that pulls the audience in with the subtly of a sledgehammer. The effect? A rare and stunning production that excels in spectacular fashion. Praise director David Fofi for letting Stephen Adly Guirgis’ writing breathe. It is as if you are watching a documentary, and will feel the effects of change on our poisoned outcasts. This is theatre at its finest.
In Arabia We’d All Be Kings performs Jan. 26 thru March 3 at the Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd. For tickets, call (323) 960-4410.
ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE
The Elephant Theatre Company in association with the VS. Theatre Company presents Stephen Adly Guirgis' IN ARABIA WE'D ALL BE KINGS, a tale of a group of down-and-outs and their life in their "home base", currently performing at Hollywood's Elephant Theatre.
Most of the action takes place in an unnamed dive bar located in a rough section of Manhattan near Times Square. The bar itself is a leftover from the days when the center of midtown including 42nd Street, was a hotbed for assorted vice. Now the area is getting the "Disney" treatment where the entire area is turning into a family friendly tourist spot. But the bar hosts some of the forgotten street folks; a crack-head or two, a single mother, an unemployed ex-con, an old man now "lives" in the bar, and others that find how their world is passing them by and how life in the streets is just based upon taking things one day at a time--assuming that their lives are of anything worth the taking!
This story's focus is on the changing of an area going upscale at the expense of those who are invisible; the kinds of people nobody seems to give a crap about! The play itself is honest and to the point. It may take place in Manhattan, but the entire scene can fit in any urban area such as Hollywood(!) The cast of characters that appear in this play are just as gritty as the entire landscape itself. Those players include (in order of their appearance), Jason Warren, Steven Schub, Bernadette Speakes, Dan Gilvary, Carolina Espiro, Patrica Rae, George Russo, Charles Pacello, Kenny Suarez, Torrance Jordan, Jake Dornfield, Tim Starks, Charlie Romanelli, and Brett Hren, all performing under the stage direction of David Fofi.
Any story whose setting is a neighborhood tavern gives the illusion of a friendly place where everyone knows of one another bringing their entire lives up front ala Cheers. IN ARABIA WE'D ALL BE KINGS can be described as an "anti-Cheers" where not only nobody know of one's name, nobody gives a flying "F"! That's why this play has its ironic appeal. The world is not a happy place, and this play confirms this fact. Enjoy it while one can!
IN ARABIA WE'D ALL BE KINGS, presented by The Elephant Theatre Company and the VS. Theatre Company, performs at the Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd, (one block west of Vine Street), Hollywood, until March 3rd. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights @ 8:00 PM. Reservations and information, call (323) 960-4410.
ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE
(Vol. 11-No. 6-Week of February 5th, 2007)
by Rich Borowy
THE TICKET STUB
"A fascinating tapestry of characters struggling to survive on the fringes of lower Manhattans makes for an exceptional comedy/drama. This intelligently written play by Stephen Adly Guirgis generates both laughter and sorrow. You can definitely recommend it to your friends."
In Arabia We'd All Be Kings Review
Change is not always a positive thing especially for people who live on familiarity. Change can shake a person to the core and not necessarily in a good way.
When the current establishedment gets exchanged for a newer model, some will be elated while others will think, "don't fix anything that ain't busted". The latter is a strong sentiment in Stephen Adly Guirgis play In Arabia We'd All Be Kings. During Mayor Rudy Guiliani seven-year term in New York, he was on a dedicated mission of ridding the city of the sleaze and grime that tainted the area where MTV and Dick Clark's annual New Years Eve gala call home.
Unfortunately, the long time residents weren't very enthusiastic about this seemingly overnight change. The people at a neighborhood bar in Hell's Kitchen are the first to feel what is non-affectionately called the 'Disneyfication' of NYC. Changes are soon to be become real and for many of these long time residents that's way too inconvenient.
They are all lost souls looking for their place that’s quickly edging them out Nuyrorican Lenny (Jason Warren) got out of Rikers after a six-year bid. He stops by the bar for some liquid courage before going to home to his mother and girlfriend Daisy (Bernadette Speakes) in a cramped apartment. After screaming with Daisy about finding work and living with ma, he takes his frustrations out on Skank (Steven Schub) a once promising actor turned drug addict who uses his oral skills to get paid.
Skank has a crack head girlfriend, Chickie (Jade Dornfeld) who is the object of bartender Charlie's (Torrance Jordan) affections. Lenny gets the 411 on the neighborhood during his absence from Boricua sexy mama Mrs. Reyes (Carolina Espiro) and her angry, foul mouthed 17-year old daughter Demaris (Carolina Espiro). He learns that people and the places he left behind or either dead or been replaced by gentrification. Lenny is the only one trying to get his act together while the others are going with flow trying not to sink.
Writer Guirgis has a deep understanding of human nature. His weaving of a social issue and how it affects the people feels very authentic. Everyone has his or her own story and demons to conquer. Guirgis digs deep into the soul bringing out the melancholy and grit of everyday people who try striving for better.
Everyone has their own story and their demons to conquer
Guirgis exposes how the consequences of Guiliani's clean up affect the working Joe and Jane of America. Just because the ugliness is swept away doesn't mean there won't be remnants. Sammy (played by the outstanding Dan Gilvary) who owns a stool the way Norm did in Cheers, represents the wear and tear of the neighborhood whereas street wise businessman Greer (Tim Starks) embodies the progression of Giuliani's plan in getting rid of the overt indecency for his own gain.
In the end, they are all lost souls looking for their place that's quickly edging them out. Where do you when the place called home doesn't want you back? What do you do when you have to find somewhere else but everywhere you go has a no vacancy brightly lit? Tomorrow is a fantasy and yesterday is a long forgotten memory. Everyone struggles to survive the day and if you can do that, you are half way there.
In Arabia We'd All Be Kings plays at The Elephant Space theater, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., until Saturday, Mar. 17. For more information call (323) 960-4410 or visit www.plays411.com/arabia
By Mary Emerita Montoro
PARK LA BREA
In Arabia We’d All Be Kings
On the TV show “Cheers” (a bar “where everybody knows your name”) the worse thing that could happen to one of its patrons is an argument with his wife or boss or some other trivia. Try the bar in “In Arabia We’d All Be Kings,” located in New York’s hell’s kitchen of the 90s, somewhere around West 43rd Street, right in the path of the gentrification-Disneyfication. There, it’s more typical for someone to get knifed, raped, shot or all three. Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis brings the sights, sounds and smells of the hood to the page, and a stellar cast with an insightful and passionate director (David Fofi) bring it to the stage. The story is really a stack of sad slices of life all thrown together sharing or grabbing what they have or what there is.
Lenny (Jason Warren) just got out of jail. His girl Daisy (Bernadette Speakes), is looking for someone to give her a better life. Lenny’s not the man. Skank (Steven Schub), an actor wannabe who hit the skids, hard, is out for enough money to get some dope. He’ll do anything. Both he and Daisy find that possibility with a slick, dressed to the 9s, Greer (Tim Starks); Skank, 20 bucks in the men’s room and Daisy for a lifetime. Skank’s girl, Chickie (Jade Dornfeld), loopy at best, doesn’t really know what’s happening as long as she gets her treats. She teaches a young local teen, Demaris (Carolina Espiro) how to work the streets. Bartender, Charlie (Torrance Jordan), a mentally slow, but tender guy is madly in love with Chickie. And then there is the old guy at the end of the bar, Sammy (Dan Gilvary), who is there morning through closing.
As each sad story is told, some of them intersecting, you’ll see the tragedy of if all. Human lives wasted. What could these people have become growing up in a different place? What if their families stayed together? Is it too late for these people to look in a real mirror? Unfortunately, it seems to not be in the cards. Again, the ensemble is flawless. Schub is terrific. It is hard to keep your eyes off him even before he becomes a major character. Starks is a standout. When he makes an entrance, the stage is his. His negotiation scene with Schub is heartbreaking. Award winning set and lighting designer Joel Daavid’s bar is perfect visually and atmospherically. Kimberly Negrete served as assistant lighting designer. Christopher Game (sound) and Galarch Khalioun (costumes) are right on target. This is theater at its best!
The Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood; Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; Plus Thursday, April 19 at 8:00 p.m.; $20; through April 21. Information and reservations (323) 960- 4410 or reserve online: www.plays411.com/arabia.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Leigh McLeod Fortier or Sandra Kuker (323) 960-7779
In Arabia We’d all be Kings
Begins January 26th, 2007
From the resident company of the Elephant/Lillian theaters who brought you:
7 Redneck Cheerleaders Rush24 Los Muertos Love Bites vol.3 Never Tell Love Bites Harder The Sand Storm Underwear for Christmas One World Robbers Jesus’ Kid Brother Ten Tricks 5 by Mamet & Durang King of Clubs Some Strings Attached Zzyxx Serenading Louie Love Bites Red Cross & 4H Club Greystone Dearboy’s War The Insanity of Mary Girard Search & Destroy Hanging Alice 21 Stories The Actors Nightmare Elephant Shorts Line Shooting Gallery Indian Summer of Our Despondency Halfway There Warmth & Doubt The Princess & The Peon The Love of Nechron Holding Cell Criminal Solitary Ping Pong My Only Hopeless The Galaxy Lily and a Shepard Tribute
David Fofi and Don Cesario on behalf of
the Elephant Theatre Company
IN ARABIA WE’D ALL BE KINGS
January 26th through April 21st, 2007
“In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings is a magnificent achievement."
--Ricky Spears, In Theater (New York)
A stirring portrait of the darker side of New York City and the affects of Guliani- era gentrification on the less desirable inhabitants of Hell’s Kitchen…
Hollywood- The resident company of the Elephant/Lillian theatres, Elephant Theatre Company, led by Artistic Producing Director David Fofi, Artistic Managing Director Don Cesario, and Producing Director Lindsay Allbaugh, is proud to announce the 3rd play in the Elephant Theatre Company’s 11th Season; the much anticipated IN ARABIA WE’D ALL BE KINGS by Stephen Adly Guirgis.
Giurgis, one of the country’s hottest playwrights (“Jesus Hopped the A-Train”; “OUR LADY OF 121st STREET,” “THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT”) was described by Bruce Weber of New York Times Magazine as possibly the best American playwright under 40, adding that he "belongs on the list of accomplished young American playwrights that includes Suzan-Lori Parks and David Auburn, the last two winners of the Pulitzer Prize."
Elephant Theatre Company, in association with VS. Theatre Company, is bringing this groundbreaking play written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, and directed by the Elephant Theatre Company’s Artistic Director David Fofi (LOS MUERTOS, ONE WORLD) to the L.A. stage.
IN ARABIA WE’D ALL BE KINGS was the first major work by Stephen Adly Guirgis (pronounced gear-gis) for the LAByrinth Theater Company in New York City. An actor in the company, Guirgis stepped into writing when the company was looking for new work. "In Arabia..." was named one of the 10 best new plays of 1999 by Time Out NY magazine. His second work, JESUS HOPPED THE A TRAIN, won the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival, and the Detroit Free Press Play of the Year, as well as received an Olivier Award nomination for best new play. OUR LADY OF 121st STREET, premiered Off-Broadway in 2002 receiving Best Play nominations from the Drama Desk and the Lucille Outer Critics Circle. THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT premiered at the Public Theatre in 2005. Building on his experiences as a violence prevention specialist with New York City schools and prisons, Guirgis' work centers on individuals who live on the fringe of society.
Set around a bar in Hell's Kitchen, "In Arabia..." is a portrait of life on the streets in New York during the Times Square “Disneyfication” in the Guliani-era. The characters in the play include Lenny, a recently released ex-convict; Daisy, his alcoholic girlfriend who abandons him in favor of Chinese takeout; Skank, a failed actor turned junkie and his crackhead hooker girlfriend Chickie; DeMaris, a seventeen year-old single mother; and other bar regulars. Each character uses raw, explicative-charged language particular to this group of people.
Director Fofi was drawn to "In Arabia..." for its visceral and faithful representation of the language and characters who populated Hell's Kitchen in the 90s.
"Guirgis describes himself as an actor who writes, and when he writes, he usually writes for actors he knows and works with, drawing on his life experiences for details. So the dialogue has that texture and fluidity of real speech. And the language is, well, colorful – definitely not on the FCC-approved list. It’s got that verbal music that’s sometimes so shocking it surprises. Things are said that shock us in the same ways real people can surprise us. These characters are totally uninhibited, they really don’t seem to give a damn what anybody out there thinks of them. Some of what they say is just so ‘wrong.’ I’m still shocked to hear seriously foul riffs pouring out of the mouth of a sweet-looking girl."
One of the most distinctive companies in Hollywood, the 11 year-old Elephant Theatre Company is in residence at Elephant Stageworks on Santa Monica Blvd for a 7th season. Following 365 DAYS/PLAYS by Suzan-Lori Parks, LOS MUERTOS by Tim McNiel, NEVER TELL by James Christy and ONE WORLD by Robert J. Litz, IN ARABIA WE’D ALL BE KINGS marks the first collaboration between Vs. Theatre Company but is added to the long list of new work produced by both companies. For more information on The Elephant Theatre Company, visit elephantstageworks.com.
Joining Fofi on the artistic team is ovation winner scenic/lighting designer Joel Daavid (MA RAINEYS BLACK BOTTOM), whose designs were last seen in JITNEY at the Lillian Theatre, GOREY STORIES at Sacred Fools (Ovation nominated) and BLUE BONNET COURT at the Hudson Theatre (Ovation nominated).
Praise from the Press
"An updated Balm in Gilead for the 1990's"
--Wilborn Hampton, The New York Times
"Guirgis has a real talent for capturing the wit and absurdity in the most hopeless situation."
--Jason Zinoman, TimeOut New York
"You can't dismiss the author's knack for brutally realistic dialogue... There are moments so authentic, you feel as though you're in the seedy W. 43rd St. bar where the play takes place."
"Guirgis is harking back to the abiding theme of American drama: the conflict between dreams and reality...In the tradition of Tennessee Williams, [he] does not pull any punches in dramatizing life on the street."
--Elias Stimac, Back Stage
"If Adly Guirgis is not one of the freshest new voices in theater he is certainly one of the most courageous...In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings is a magnificent achievement."
--Ricky Spears, In Theater
"Guirgis [has] a Mamet-like ability to catch and express the nuances of angry low-life vernacular."
--Nicholas de Jongh, The Evening Standard
In Arabia We’d All Be Kings runs January 26th through April 21, 2007. Performances are at The Elephant Space at 6322 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $20. Running time is 90 minutes, with street parking and concessions available.
For information and reservations, call (323) 960-4410 or RESERVE ONLINE: www.plays411.com/arabia.