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May 18 – June 17, 2007
Diversionary Theatre will present Tom Jacobson’s new play Bunbury, a serious play for trivial people, as the sixth and final show of their 2006-2007 season. When he finds out that he is only a fictitious character who never appears in The Importance of Being Earnest, Bunbury uses his double anonymity to infiltrate and alter classic literature, starting by accidentally giving Romeo and Juliet a happy ending. The resulting transformation of such classics asThe Three Sisters, A Streetcar Named Desire, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Waiting for Godot, and even Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven spawns a new sub-discipline in literary criticism and may even change the world. A comedy that proves everyone’s life means something–even if they don’t exist!
[/tab] [tab title=” About The Playwright”]Tom Jacobson is a playwright who has had more than 50 productions in Los Angeles and around the country, including The Beloved Disciple, Cyberqueer, and Degenerate Art. Recent adaptations of Sperm at Circle X and The Orange Grove at Playwrights Arena were Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times. He is a co-literary manager of The Theatre @ Boston Court, a founding member of Playwrights Ink, and a board member of Cornerstone Theater Company. He teaches playwriting and related courses for UCLA Extension. In the fall of 2005, he collaborated with The Road Theatre Company on a sold-out, extended run of Bunbury following their 1998 production of Tainted Blood (winner of seven Valley Theatre League Awards) and their 2004 production of Ouroboros (Garland Award for playwriting, LA Weekly Awards for playwriting and Production of the Year).
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[/tab][/tab] [tab title=”Creative Team”]Playwright: Tom Jacobson
Director: Esther Emery
Designer: Nick Fouch
The Los Angeles Times said this of the October 2005 Los Angeles premiere: “In Bunbury, playwright Tom Jacobson fashions a character for Oscar Wilde’s unseen plot device from The Importance of Being Earnest and sends him into giddy collision with various coevals from classic plays. Merely that aspect of this ingenious fantasia ‘A serious play for trivial people’ – will seduce theater buffs…”
LAist.com said Bunbury was “poignant…A rambunctious, big-hearted play-about-plays. The writing is funny, poignant, and provocative. The concept of this play is clever enough for even Wilde to be amused. It argues that the most important characters in any piece are the ones off stage, and the most important people in our lives are the ones we ignore. Jacobson wants us to look more closely at the people and things in our lives that are swept under the carpet.”
Subfictional ‘Bunbury’ a very real adventure on the literary fringe
By Anne Marie Welsh
May 21, 2007
Matching wits with Oscar Wilde takes chutzpah. Yet in “Bunbury,” playwright Tom Jacobson has done just that. His stylish if dizzying romp, now at Diversionary Theatre, will amuse and provoke theater lovers who may also be left pondering that always-fraught relationship between art and life.
At the outset, Jacobson goes even Tom Stoppard one better. Two-bit players in “Hamlet” got their own Stoppard spinoff in the English playwright’s breakthrough “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” Jacobson gives a whole gaudy parade of never-appearing characters their crack at changing literary and real history.
Jacobson’s hero is Bunbury, the imaginary friend of Algernon Moncrieff, himself one of two silly male characters pursuing two even sillier upper-class girls in Wilde’s great comedy, “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
Whenever Algernon wants to get away from the city, he disappears to go Bunburying. A mere plot device in Wilde, Jacobson gives him a starring role in his rambunctious 2005 comedy. And at Diversionary, where director Esther Emery has staged a smart, lively, and well-cast production, actor David McBean looks born to play the part of the lily-wielding, poetry-loving aesthete pining away for love of liter-ah-ture and Algernon.
After fiercely trading epigrams with his surprisingly shrewd, piano-playing butler Hartley (Tom Zohar), Bunbury gets visited by a singularly unhappy Renaissance lady, the ditched girlfriend of Romeo, Rosaline (Melissa Fernandes, spot-on too).
Like Bunbury in “Earnest,” she’s never seen in Shakespeare’s play; she’s “subfictional.” Others who make unprecedented appearances on stage – the young, gay husband of Blanche (“rely on the kindness of strangers”) DuBois; the “little bugger” son of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and, of course, Beckett’s heretofore unseen Godot.
Such an erudite and well-written conceit does not a play make, however. So Jacobson, an L.A. playwright beloved by many critics in his hometown, does more. He sends Bunbury and Rosaline racing through dramatic literature to change the unhappy endings of iconic works. Juliet wakes up in the tomb and, to Rosaline’s disgust, reunites with Romeo. Blanche forgives her wayward husband and thus avoids “that Polish rapist” Stanley Kowalski.
Best of all, in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” – well, perhaps it’s better not to give any more away.
What lends the comedy its occasional heft, however, are two other themes. Jacobson teases out the gay subtexts in Wilde’s comedy and Tennessee Williams’ drama while giving Bunbury and old Algernon a happy (read, sweetly sublimated) ending. He makes you wonder: If every writer were free and fulfilled, would there be any literature at all? Would happy endings migrate to life?
Director Emery pulls well-timed performances from everyone in her energetic cast, with designer Nick Fouch’s sliding curtains and period props switching eras swiftly enough to keep the proceedings this side of anarchic.
Wendy Waddell and John Rosen are especially good in multiple roles and Aaron Marcotte stretches smoothly from high comedy as Algernon to low as a Southern gay pickup flung loose from “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
The show belongs to McBean and Fernandes though, and they play off one another, his likably wounded aesthete to her versifying, vilifying shrew, with the deceptive ease of real pros. This warm-hearted, light-headed “Bunbury” concludes a nicely varied and adventurous 2006-07 season at Diversionary.
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Prepared for the Director and Cast of Bunbury
by Kenda Ricciardelli, Dramaturg
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.
Arabian Nights. Every day Shahryar (Persian for king) would marry a new virgin, and every day he would send yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. Scheherazade, the legendary Persian queen, put off her fate by telling the king fascinating stories, which always had to be continued the next night.
Bartleby The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street by Herman Melville. First published in 1853; the narrator of Melville’s book is a Lawyer who runs a law practice on Wall Street.
Candide is a 1759 controversial novel by Voltaire, written under the pseudonym: Monsieur le Docteur Ralph (Mister Doctor Ralph). The novel’s sardonic outlook follows the naive Candide from his first exposure to the belief that “all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.” Candide clings to this belief despite all the adventures in his life dramatically disprove it.
Cavafy. Constantine P. Cavafy, prominent Greek Poet (April 29, 1863-April 29, 1933)
The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). English poet and controversial figure due to his zeal for the destruction of Irish culture. In The Faerie Queen, Spenser creates an allegory, symbolic of the real world. Characters represent the two virtues he considers most important, Holiness and Chastity. In the end, aided by strength and the grace of God, the characters are able to conquer the dragon that represents all the evil in the world.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips, a novel by James Hilton published in 1934. Mr. Chipping, a much-loved school teacher at Brookfield boys’ school conquers his inability to connect with the boys and his shyness when he marries Katherine. In 1969 the musical version of this book was made into a movie starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
Love Among The Ruins. 1975 TV movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Oliver, directed by George Cukor. An aging actress is being sued for breach of promise. She hires her lawyer who was an ex-lover, who is still in love with her. He finds the only way to win this case and protect her assets is to ruin her reputation.
Madame Bovary. Written by Gustave Flaubert in 1856. Emma Bovary is a woman suffering from her character. She ruins herself and her family because of her great desire for splendor, comfort, and amusements. She suffered so much and had so much pain in this life, she committed suicide by drinking arsenic.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. First published in 1890; Wilde’s only novel.
The Rime of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. First published in 1798; the Mariner’s tale begins with his ship unfortunately driven off course by a storm.
Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. First published in 1774; a collection of letters written by Werther, a young artist of a highly sensitive and passionate temperament to his friend Wilhelm.
Swinburne. Algernon Charles Swinburne; April 15, 1837-April 10, 1909. A Victorian-era English poet. Highly controversial containing themes of Sadomasochism, Deathwish, Lesbianism, and irreligion. He was considered a decadent poet, although he professed to more vice than he actually indulged in as Oscar Wilde famously commented on.
Totentanz-Dance of Death, a symphonic piece by Franz
List. Strindberg wrote a play called Dance of Death. It was done on Broadway with Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen.
Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
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