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Playhouse on Park offers new play series with an edge for daring audiences

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No one can accuse West Hartford's little dynamo of a theater company, the Playhouse on Park, of not offering plenty of options to their audiences: a full season of main stage theatrical productions, a dance series, a stand-up comedy series, children's theater, and a wide range of classes for adults (improvisation, scene study) and youngsters. They even sponsor a short play event, an annual New Year's Eve party and entertain every Monday evening next door at the A.C. Petersen Farms Restaurant, to name just a few of their other offerings.

Not satisfied to rest on their successes and--this may be more significant--willing to take some financial and artistic risks, the Playhouse is initiating this month a new initiative called "Playhouse on Edge," a series of three evenings of what the Playhouse calls "bold, provocative new works for adults."

The series kicks off on September 19 with Adam Rapp's "Red Light Winter," a Pulitzer Prize finalist back in 2006 that the Guardian newspaper has described as "unflinching, intense and bleakly hilarious." The plot revolves around two college friends who, during a trip to Amsterdam, become entangled in a love triangle with a young prostitute, and return home to face a much darker truth.

The play runs through September 22 and is for audiences 18 years of age and older, due to nudity, strong sexual situations and profanity. Performance times will be at 7:30 pm on Thursday, September 19, 8 p.m. on Friday, September 20 and 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 22.

The series will also include "Theater Uncut," an evening of world premieres of international one-act plays scheduled for November, and a production of Naomi Wallace's "The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek," set for May.

According to Sean Harris, co-Artistic Director of the Playhouse, the new series evolved from the recognition that "one of our missions is to provide theater for everyone and sometimes we feel we sometimes neglect that college and early 20's demographic. I do believe that these plays will also draw audiences from all ages but they are new plays that very rarely are produced in the area. In order to keep theater alive in my opinion, it is important to produce theater that expands people's minds and still gives them an experience."

Of this year's Playhouse on the Edge plays, Harris explained "the content of "Red Light Winter" is extremely raw and unsettling, but it is a brilliantly written and devastating play which college students often study in their playwriting classes. But because of the nudity and sexual content, adults will only be admitted to the show. "Trestle on Pope Lick Creek" has some uncomfortable moments and is one of the most loved plays by college students across the country. Naomi Wallace is a voice rarely experienced in this area and her plays have a wonderful poetic slant and it’s a nonlinear, part mystery, part coming of age story."

Harris recently returned from a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August where he saw readings of some of the plays selected for "Theater Uncut." "These are plays that are written by established playwrights from all over the world, responding to political situations in their own countries," he indicated. "They are all world premieres and the playwrights donate these pieces to theaters around the world royalty-free for one week in November. There are colleges that participate in the performances, including UMass, as well as professional theaters such as ours and the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco."

All three of the offerings in the Edge series will be professional productions, Harris added, with professional directors and actors. Starring in "Red Light Winter" are Shannon Michael Wamser as Davis, Kieran Mulcare as Matt, and Zoe Farmingdale as Christina. Wamser has previously been seen at the Playhouse as an actor, playing George in "Of Mice and Men" and served as writer for the Playhouse's adaptation of "The Comedy of Errors." Mulcare is making his Playhouse debut, but has been seen as Hamlet at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in New York and on the Fox TV series "The Following." Farmingdale was recently seen in the Playhouse's production of "Cabaret" where she played Helga and has played Kim MacAfee in the Family Musical Theatre's production of "Bye Bye Birdie" and as the Ghost of Christmas Past at the Theatre Company of Debaun's production of "A Christmas Carol."

Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for students (over 18), seniors and Let's Go Arts members. Student rush tickets are available15 minutes before curtain for $10.00, cash only, with a valid student ID. For more information, visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call 860.523.5900, ext. 10.

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