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Revival of John Bishop’s ‘The Trip Back Down’ about NASCAR racer Bobby Horvath

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Groupies, trophies and fast, beautiful cars, is winning all there is? Terri Hanauer directs a rare revival of the celebrated Broadway drama that kick-started playwright/screenwriter John Bishop’s career. Nick Stabile (“Bride of Chucky, Dennis Wilson in ABC’s award-winning “The Beach Boys”) heads the cast as once-great NASCAR racer Bobby Horvath inThe Trip Back Down,” opening February 21, 2014 at the Whitefire Theatre.

After a near-miss crash-and-burn race on the circuit, Bobby Horvath returns home to the Midwestern factory town he left to pursue racing. Over the course of numerous flashbacks, past and present collide – with unexpected results.

“Bobby needed courage to leave Mansfield to pursue a racing career, and now he needs to find the courage to come back – to face the friends and family he abandoned, to face living, to face himself,” explains Hanauer. “It’s as if he’s racing for his life. His memories rush at him like cars racing by. Everything that happens is either ‘fuel’ or a ‘pit stop.’ He needs to get his life in focus, to get to the finish line.”

"The Trip Back Down" teems with 26 characters and takes place over a span of two decades. Populated with rich characters including family members, colorful race car drivers, groupies, union leaders and factory workers, the cast also includes Chelsea Belmont, Kevin Brief, Lovlee Carroll, Eve Danzeisen, Karl Ebergen, Eric Erickson, Gregory G. Giles, Larrs Jackson, Mike Mahaffey, Lily Nicksay, Scott, Terasa Sciortino and Meredith Thomas.

“Not many people in L.A. know about this play because it hasn’t been done here since 1998,” says Stabile. “It’s a classic, a great piece.”

Bishop was writing about a world he knew well; the playwright grew up in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of a foreman for Westinghouse. “The Trip Back Down” opened at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway on January 4, 1977 where it ran for 70 performances with John Cullum starring as Bobby Horvath. When Marshall W. Mason, founder of the acclaimed Circle Repertory Company, saw a performance, he invited Bishop to become a member. Circle Rep would become Bishop’s artistic home for nearly 20 years.

“The Trip Back Down” previews 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, February 13, 14, 15, and 20, opens 8 p.m. Friday, February 2 and performs 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday through March 29. General admission is $25; full-time students with ID are $15; previews are $15. Call 323-960-7712 or visit www.plays411.com/trip.

The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks.

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