In playwright and Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck's latest work, Fool, now headed for the Alley Theatre, the setting is a medieval kitchen where she pits two court jesters against each other with potentially disastrous consequences for one of them (the loser will be beheaded).
According to Alley Artistic Director Gregory Boyd, "The medieval setting is a ruse. Camouflage, A disguise in a play of disguises.
"One of the things the play is, is a 'comedy about comedy' as Theresa says. And the situation allows her to put the characters in a desperate situation, which I think is a way of making vivid the fears and anxieties of any performer, or artist -- it's always life and death for a artist, even if it's not literal for most. Alongside that is an idea she is fascinated with in the play -- how comedy can speak truth to power. There's something anarchic and wickedly spirited about comedy, and some rulers don't always find that amusing.
Alley company members Jeffrey Bean King)and Elizabeth Bunch (Joss) join with Joey Collins (The Glass Menagerie with Jessica Lange on Broadway) and others in this world premiere.
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Boyd said that Rebeck told him about the play she was working on (it has been workshopped in Connecticutt) and when she sent it to him a few weeks later he was interested right away. "I was immediately attracted to it-- because it shared those great qualities all her plays have, of wonderful roles for actors, surprising plotting and her fine comic fury, which has so much energy about it. And it's full of smart, smart fun."
As a result, Boyd set aside a play he'd planned for the 2013-14 season and replaced it with Fool.
"Theresa is one of the most interesting and wide-ranging playwrights working today -- and i think she is really at the top of her game. She writes plays that actors revel in working on and performing, and that audiences respond to fantastically. In other words, she writes brilliantly entertaining plays that are about something. and her level of craft is as high as it gets -- her plotting, her dialogue, her humor and her sense of 'theater' of how to propel a story onstage is unique and very satisfying."
Fool runs February 21 through March 16 on the Hubbard Stage (it opens February 26) at the Alley, 615 Texas Avenue. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For information call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $26-$65.