by Steven McElroy
POTOMAC THEATER PROJECT After 20 years of producing theater in and around Washington, the Potomac Theater Project is hoping to call New York City home again. An earlier incarnation of the group, the New York Theater Studio, was active here from 1977 to 1985.
The company is ready for new challenges, said Cheryl Faraone, one of the three co-directors (with Richard Romagnoli and Jim Petosa), and New York will provide that. Being distinctive and relevant in a town full of theater companies is no easy feat, but Ms. Faraone said she was optimistic.
by Mark Blankenship
This year’s Tony Award acceptance speeches were peppered with pleas for a true repertory theater company in New York, and while “The Coast of Utopia” certainly hinted at how such an institution might work on a grand scale, there’s also a smaller model to consider.
After two decades producing successfully in the Washington, D.C., area, the Potomac Theater Project has brought its take on repertory theater to Gotham.
The company’s 21st season of politically themed plays will run in repertory in New York June 20-July 14 at Atlantic Theater Company’s 99-seat Stage 2, alternating perfs of Howard Barker’s 1981 indictment of censorship, “No End of Blame,” with a collection of short pieces by writer-director Anthony Minghella. The combined cast of 27 features 15 Equity professionals and 12 students from Vermont’s Middlebury College, where two of Potomac’s three co-artistic directors — Cheryl Faraone and Richard Romagnoli — have long been faculty members.
by Aaron Riccio
In Sarah Kane’s Crave, four fragmented characters fear they will never discover where life begins; in Neal Bell’s Somewhere in the Pacific, soldiers en route to Iwo Jima fear they will soon find where life ends. Potomac Theatre Project—currently presenting these works in a double bill—should worry that Bell’s shipwreck of a play may cause the audience to forget Kane’s cannonading cadences.
Crave’s figures speak in circles without moving, but their dialogue is filled with action: Ravenous and earnest, the script demands emotional attention. A lonely child-rapist and a tormented victim are miles apart, but united as facets of Kane’s mind. “No one survives life,” goes one typically bleak line.
by Alexis Soloski
In Howard Barker’s 1990 play Scenes From an Execution, a young painter tells an older one: “Give the people what they want, and they will love you. They will exclaim over you.” The older painter, Galactia (Jan Maxwell), doesn’t take this advice—nor, seemingly, does the Potomac Theatre Project. After all, they’re staging Howard Barker, that grim and intransigent British playwright—hardly a popular choice. And they’ve followed him with a dour double bill of Sarah Kane’s Crave and Neal Bell’s Somewhere in the Pacific. But give the people—and Potomac—some credit: The audiences who sat through this un-summery fare did exclaim over it.
Scenes From an Execution unfurls in 16th-century Venice. It concerns a fictional painter, Galactia, who has accepted a commission from the Doge of Venice to paint a gigantic work of public art celebrating the Battle of Lepanto. Trouble is, she doesn’t think there’s much worth celebrating. Though the younger painter begs her to obey the state, Galactia insists: “Someone has got to speak for dead men.” The result: When one viewer sees the painting, he can only gasp: “Oh, God. What are all these bodies doing here?”
by Alexis Soloski
Last year’s PTP production of Howard Barker’s Scenes From an Execution, meanwhile, has endowed the group with a lot more Big Apple cred — Jan Maxwell, who appeared in the production, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Leading Actress. The year before, another Barker play, No End of Blame, was nominated quadruply by the New York Innovative Theatre Awards.
by Tom Murrin
Jan Maxwell is Broadway royalty. The elegant, lively and very funny four-time Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner pretty much stole the show in Lend Me A Tenor, and was nothing short of perfection in The Royal Family. With her latest, Victory: Choices in Reaction, she takes on the role of the widow of a Republican intellectual in 1660 Restoration England. In the cast of 12, David Barlow plays Charles II, the king at a time of a scandalous epoch in English history. Written by Howard Barker and directed by Richard Romagnoli, the bawdy and passionate drama represents the 4th time that Maxwell has collaborated with Potomac Theatre Project, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary season, and their fifth consecutive in NYC. I spoke with Maxwell before the second day of rehearsal.