ADEPT AT THE RISIBLE OR THE RADICAL
Ethereal yet grounded, actor Marin Ireland is magnetically attracted to theatrical projects that are at once ineffably abstract and vulnerably flesh and blood. Patrons of South Coast Repertory had the chance to experience her eccentric comic side last spring in Richard Greenberg's "The Injured Party." But she's revealed rawer nerve endings in darkly radical plays by Caryl Churchill ("Far Away") and Sarah Kane ("4:48 Psychosis" and in this fall's critically acclaimed New York premiere of "Blasted.")
This spring she makes her Broadway debut in Neil LaBute's "reasons to be pretty," which happens to be, believe it or not, the playwright's Broadway debut as well. A seeker of challenging sensibilities, Ireland is sure to thrive in LaBute's polemical seas. (Reports from the off-Broadway production say he's finally revealing a softer side, but come on -- this is LaBute!) And as a conventionally beautiful young woman who has taken an unconventionally risk-taking path, she'll no doubt bring sharp insight to this deconstruction of our cultural fixation on physical appearances.
PLAYWRIGHT RIDES A 'TIGER'
The signs are auspicious for Rajiv Joseph, author of "Huck & Holden," which had a run at the Black Dahlia Theatre in 2006. His new play, "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," keeps winning grants and awards (from the National Endowment for the Arts and other foundations) even before its world premiere this May at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
Slated to be directed by the dexterous Moises Kaufman, this surreal work, set against the backdrop of the Iraq war, revolves around a cast of characters that includes a couple of American soldiers, an Iraqi translator, the spectral return of Saddam Hussein's sons and, of course, that eponymous big kitty.
A COMIC FORUM FOR HIM
Amy Freed's "You, Nero" was the hit of last spring's Pacific Playwrights Festival, and Danny Scheie, the play's star, apparently gave a performance of Nathan Lane-scale hilarity. And this was just for the staged reading. Imagine what this actor, better known to Bay Area audiences, will do when the work has its world premiere Jan. 9 at South Coast Repertory.
Revolving around the spectacle-addicted Roman ruler who demands over-the-top pageantry even as his empire burns, the comedy conjures the depravity that ensues when public taste for escapism runs amok. Does anyone smell American satire? If the campy photos are any way to judge, Scheie will wash it all down with uproarious laughter.