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Shakespeare & Originals Preview: Two Sams Takes Messrs. Beckett and Johnson for a Wild Comic Ride

July 24, 2003 - Durham, NC:


Shakespeare & Originals will present the world premiere of Two Sams, two zany one-act comedies written by local playwright John Justice and directed by Rick Lonon, from July 24 through Aug. 2 in three different Triangle locations.

"Papa Knew Rilke" focuses on Sam #1: Irish dramatist, writer, and critic and 1969 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature Samuel Beckett (1906-89), whose masterpiece of the Theater of the Absurd, Waiting for Godot, debuted in 1952. "Vile Melancholy" turns the spotlight to Sam #2: English lexicographer, writer, and critic Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84), whose masterwork, A Dictionary of the English Language, debuted in 1755.

"Along with the works of William Shakespeare, [Shakespeare & Originals] is dedicated to producing original works, especially by local playwrights," notes Tom Marriott. "We've been lucky enough to enjoy a close relationship with John Justice for the company's five-year existence. 'Papa Knew Rilke' and 'Vile Melancholy' are just two of John's pieces which several members of the company have been looking at for some time."

Marriott, who will play the 18th century literary giant Dr. Johnson in "Vile Melancholy," says, "These plays are smart, silly, sophisticated, satirical, and touching. No character escapes John's wicked wit, yet each glows with his affection. The beauty of his literary skill could make you smile out load and blush like a school kid."

In "Papa Knew Rilke," Marriott says, "Samuel Beckett (Jeffrey Scott Detwiler) is to be interrogated as a French Resistance collaborator. His reputation is not lost on his Nazi hostess/torturer, the would-be poetess Schatzi (Flynt Burton). After a test run, Sam decides that his critique of the bad poet's bad poems is marginally preferable to any more time in the old head vise. To know if Sam escapes, we all, alas, must wait!"

In "Vile Melancholy," Marriott says, "Henry and Hester Thrale (Detwiler and Hope Hynes) are the laughably wealthy and very generous patrons of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the anglophilic keystone of anglophonic culture. (He wrote the first English dictionary.) When Henry ignominiously croaks, Samuel presumes to fill the considerable void by gracelessly thrusting his massive self at the unsuspecting and long-suffering Hester, who in turn reveals an earthly attraction to Piozzi (Derrick Ivey), the Italian (gasp!) music master. Who snags the widowed damethe hunky frame or the clunky brain? And what's up with the lock and all those chains?"

To find out, Marriott says, "Buy a ticket."

"We will be presenting these summer plays," Tom Marriott adds, "in two non-theater venuesTemple Ball at 307 W. Main St. in Carrboro and RAFI-USA on Elementary School Rd. in Pittsboroin addition to a final run at Manbites Dog Theater (corner of Foster and Geer streets) in Durham. This means our technical elements must be minimal and movable. We intend to compensate for this however with Derrick Ivey's terrific costumes and Godot & Sons props and design."

Marriott characterizes the wardrobe for "Papa Knew Rilke" as "appropriately leathery and grubby" and the period costumes for "Vile Melancholy" as "18th century grotesque."

Note: Shakespeare & Originals warns that Two Sams "contains adult language and humor."

Shakespeare & Originals presents Two Sams Thursday-Friday, July 24-25, at 8 p.m. at Temple Ball (http://www.music.templeball.com/ [inactive 10/04]), 307 E. Main St., Carrboro, NC; Sunday-Monday, July 27-28, at 8 p.m. at RAFI-USA (http://www.rafiusa.org/ [inactrive 9/03]), 274 Pittsboro Elementary School Rd., Pittsboro, NC; and Thursday-Saturday, July 31-Aug. 2, at 8:15 p.m. at Manbites Dog Theater (http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/), 703 Foster St., Durham, NC. $8-$10. (Note: July 31 is pay-what-you-will night.) Temple Ball and RAFI-USA: 919/967-8843 and Manbites Dog Theater: 919/682-3343. http://www.newfrequency.org/sams.htm.