Friday, August 28, 2009

The Hostage opens Griffin's 21st Season!

Chicago, IL, August 10, 2009: The Griffin Theatre Company opens its 21st season with Irish playwright Brendan Behan’s most celebrated play, The HOSTAGE. Press opening is Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 7:00pm. Tickets are on sale now at Theatre Building Chicago, (773) 327-5252, or online at

In 1959 Dublin, a young British soldier is held captive by the Irish Republican Army while an equally young IRA volunteer awaits execution for killing a policeman. Should the British carry out the Irishman's sentence, the IRA will do the same to the Englishman. Playwright Brendan Behan, himself a former IRA member, took this dire premise to mold a sly political satire.

Griffin ensemble member Jonathan Berry brings his directorial vision to Behan’s play set in a Dublin brothel and reveals it to be a rollicking, bawdy comedy, full of brawling energy, song and satire that mixes beautifully with powerful drama. Berry who last season helmed the Griffin’s hit production of Simon Stephen’s On the Shore of the Wide World will intertwine laughter, tears, joy and fear in a music hall staging of one of Ireland’s most significant Irish dramas.

Behan's absurdist tragi-comedy, THE HOSTAGE, was originally written in Irish Gaelic and performed in that language as An Giall at the Damer Hall, St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, Ireland, in 1957. Following the success of that production, Behan translated the play into English and Joan Littlewood, the innovative director of the Theater Workshop in London agreed to direct it. The premiere of THE HOSTAGE opened on the 14th of October, 1958, at Littlewood's Theater Royal in Stratford, London. The work has subsequently become one of the pillars upon which Behan's reputation rests, and the original Littlewood production has since become recognized as evidence of the Theater Workshop's important role in Postwar British theater.

The play is written in a non-realist style; characters frequently burst into song and sometimes into song-and-dance routines, and Behan consistently tries to undercut seriousness with humor. Littlewood tried to act and direct her plays in a way that would break down the "fourth wall" between actors and audience. It is a key text of the Absurdist theater movement, a movement that influenced later generations of playwrights such as Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter. The play is especially important because it represents the intersection of British and Irish theater that occurred prior to the escalation of hostilities in Northern Ireland.

THE HOSTAGE continues the Griffin’s tradition of producing rare revivals not seen in Chicago for decades—Ah Wilderness!, Time and the Conways, The Robber Bridegroom and Dead End to name a few. The Chicago cast includes, Rom Barkhordar, Ryan Bourque, Chris Chmelik, Rob Fenton, Nora Fiffer, Kevin Gladish, Pat King, Evan Lee, Jason Lindner, Eamonn McDonnagh, Donna McGough, Eddie Paul, Melissa Riemer, Sadie Rogers and Sara Sevigny.

The Technical and Design team for THE HOSTAGE includes: Stephanie Sherline (Music Director), Maureen Janson (Choreography), Chantal Calato (Costumes), Lee Keenan (Lights), Marianna Csaszar (Set), Rick Sims (Sound) and Kimberly Purcell (Production Stage Manager).

BRENDAN BEHAN (Playwright) was born in Dublin and lived his childhood in the slums of the city. In spite of the surroundings, he did not end up becoming an unlettered slum lad. He also owed much of his education to his family, well-read, and of strong Republican sympathies. Behan attended Catholic schools until the age of 14, when he abandoned studies and then worked as a house painter. In 1939 Behan was arrested on a sabotage mission in Liverpool, following a deadly explosion at Coventry. He was sentenced to three years in Borstal in a reform school for attempting to blow up a battleship in Liverpool harbour. After release, Behan returned to Ireland, but in 1942 he was sentenced to 14 years for the attempted murder of two detectives. He served at Mountjoy Prison and at the Curragh Military Camp. In 1946 he was released under a general amnesty. During his years in prison, Behan started to write, mainly short stories in an inventive stylization of Dublin vernacular. Later he lived in Paris and Dublin, writing for Radio Telefis and for the Irish Press. Behan's best-known novel, Borstal Boy (1958), drew its material from his experiences in the Liverpool jail and Borstal school (reform school). Behan's first play, The Quare Fellow, was based on his prison experiences. Behan wrote several plays, but he had difficulties in getting performed in his own country. Among Behan's other dramas are The Big House (1957) and THE HOSTAGE (1958), written in Gaelic under the title An Giall and set in a disreputable Dublin lodging house-or a brothel-owned by a former IRA commander. The play was acclaimed in London, Paris, and New York.

THE HOSTAGE begins preview performances Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 7:45pm. Previews continue September 17, 18, 19, at 7:45pm and Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 3:00pm. Press opening is Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 7:00pm. Tickets to THE HOSTAGE range from $18-$28, and are on sale now. The regular run performances (September 20 – November 1, 2009) are Thursday through Saturday at 7:45 pm. and Sunday at 3:00pm. Note there will be no matinee performance on Sunday, September 20, 2009. Preview tickets are priced at $18.00 each and regular run tickets are priced at $28.00 each. Tickets are on sale now at Theatre Building Chicago, (773) 327-5252, or online at Senior and student discounts and group rates are available.