Off-Broadway’s TACT/The Actors Company Theatre will present the world premiere of Jeff Talbott’s The Gravedigger’s Lullaby starting in February 2017 at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row. Jenn Thompson (TACT’s Abundance and Eccentricities of a Nightingale; Mint Theatre Company’s Women Without Men) will direct the bruising work, about a laborer at a professional crossroads in a bleak landscape. The 2016-17 TACT season will launch this fall with a fresh take on She Stoops to Conquer, directed by TACT executive artistic director Scott Alan Evans.
The Gravedigger’s Lullaby was developed in the June 2015 NewTACTics New Play Festival, TACT’s developmental reading series, where Thompson also directed. Talbott (MCC’s Laurents/Hatcher Award-winning play The Submission) and Thompson (Goodspeed Musicals’ current Bye Bye Birdie and Barrington Stage Company’s upcoming Tribes) are TACT company members; Thompson is a former co-artistic director there.
According to TACT, The Gravedigger’s Lullaby “tells the powerful, simple tale of Baylen, a hardworking gravedigger fighting to feed his family in a world that threatens to bury him.”
“The very first thing that came to me was an image: a rich man and a poor man sitting side by side, feet dangling, looking out, eating apples,” Talbott told me in 2015. “I had been toying with writing something about the wealth gap, but had no desire — and have no desire — to write something overtly political, so any notes I had taken seemed like starting points for plays that had either been seen or that I did not want to see. Then, one day, that image came to me, and I knew it was a departure point for something.”
Read my earlier interview with John Gassner Award-winning playwright Talbott, who shared thoughts about the genesis of the new play.
Performances will begin Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017 and open on Sunday, March 12 for a limited run through April 1. The cast and creative team will be announced at a later date.
Although The Gravedigger’s Lullaby is a rare world premiere for TACT, the past productions The Triangle Factory Fire Project and Long Island Sound were both premieres by the company.
TACT’s 2016-17 season will launch Oct. 4, 2016, with a unique, playful revival of Oliver Goldsmith’s 1773 comedy She Stoops to Conquer. The frisky new spin on the classic was seen in TACT’s 2015-16 Salon Series of staged readings, featuring company members Simon Jones, Cynthia Darlow, Mary Bacon, Jeremy Beck, MacKenzie Meehan, James Prendergast and Richard Thieriot, who are expected to repeat their work Off-Broadway. Opening night at the Beckett is Oct. 16 for a run to Nov. 5.
She Stoops to Conquer marks the seventh time that TACT has moved a play from TACT’s Salon Series to a mainstage production.
According to TACT, “This classic 18th-century British comedy, in which a mismatched love comes to rights when a strong young woman lowers the stakes, combines heightened language, great heart, and timeless humor. TACT’s production will take a fresh streamlined look at this enduring play and will feature some daring audience participation.”
The production will feature set design by Brett Banakis, lighting design by Mary Louise Geiger and costume design by Tracy Christiansen.
The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row is at 410 W. 42nd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues). Performances will be Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 PM, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM. All tickets are at $63.25, including $2.50 restoration fee.
Tickets are on sale now at Telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200 or visiting the Theatre Row Box Office.
My new play Hollywood, Nebraska was featured in the June 2016 NewTACTics New Play Festival, as was Talbott’s dawning work How to Build a City.