BENNINGTON — "The Consul, the Tramp & America's Sweetheart," an award-winning play, will receive its world premiere opening Friday, Sept. 2, at Bennington's Oldcastle Theatre.
Playwright John Morogiello has had two earlier works presented by Oldcastle as premieres, "Engaging Shaw" and "Play Date." The former has since been produced in numerous productions around the country and in Europe, the latter has been presented successfully in New York and Baltimore. His current play has won the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and the Dayton FutureFest. It is scheduled to be produced in California this fall. Morogiello is Playwright in Residence at the Maryland State Arts Council. He has several awards including the Kennedy Center Fellowship of the Americas and the Holland New Voices Playwright Award.
"The Consul, the Tramp & America's Sweetheart" characters include two screen giants, Charles Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Miss Pickford, known as "America's Sweetheart" was a silent screen star who became the head of United Artists, the film studio she founded with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, legendary director, D.W. Griffith, and Chaplin. "The Little Tramp," as Chaplin's movie character was known, was the most popular film comedian during the silent film era of the twenties. But as the play opens in 1937, he is about to begin shooting his first talking picture. The movie, "The Great Dictator," caused a sensation as Chaplin satirized Adolf Hitler whose Nazi army was gobbling up one European country after another.
The cast features Elizabeth Aspenlieder, a veteran of twenty seasons with Shakespeare & Company. She has been seen with the Lenox, Massachusetts company in comedies such as "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," dramas, "Mother of the Maid," and "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" and Shakespeare classics such as "King Lear" and "A MIdsummer Night's Dream." She won the Elliot Norton Award Best Solo Performance for her role in "Bad Dates" and last season made a memorable Oldcastle debut in "The Lion in Winter." Ms. Aspenlieder is Assistant Director to Tina Packer for Shakespeare & Company's current production of "The Merchant of Venice."
David Joseph plays Charlie Chaplin. He is an eleven year veteran of Shakespeare & Company where he will be seen this fall in "It's a Wonderful Life." His varied career includes George in "Word Play" at Playwrights Horizons in New York, "Henry V" at Shakespeare & Company, "Dracula" at Boston's Colonial Theatre, Romeo in "Romero and Juliet" for the Boston Symphony; as well as feature films such as Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock," a national tour of "The Man of La Mancha" and twice singing the National Anthem at Fenway Park.
Lori Vega is making her Oldcastle debut as Miss Hollombee, Mary Pickford's ambitious assistant. She has appeared regionally with Idaho Shakespeare, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare and Saratoga Shakespeare. She played Wendy in "Peter Pan" at Dorset Theatre Festival, appeared off-Broadway in "Men & Women Talking Love & Sex," and had a featured role in the Oscar winning film, "Birdman."
Paul Romero is returning to Oldcastle where he delighted audiences playing Larry the Liquidator in "Other People's Money" and Big Daddy in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." He has appeared in theatres throughout the U.S. including the Shakspeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Huntington Theatre, Arkansas Rep, Orlando Shakespeare and many more. His screen appearances include punching Mark Ruffalo in "Begin Again" and dying of a heart attack on television's "Mozart in the Jungle." His other TV credits include "Law & Order," "Chappelle's Show," "Spin City," several soap operas and "The Late Show with David Letterman."
The set design is by Oldcastle's Associate Artistic Director, Richard Howe, the costumes are by Ursula McCarty and Roy Hamlin. Sound design is by Cory Wheat.
Oldcastle's Producing Artistic Director, Eric Peterson is directing the play. "It is a pleasure to once again offer a play by John Morogiello," Peterson said. "John is a talented writer who crafts plays that are very different one from another. "Engaging Shaw" was a Shavian-like comedy of manners, "Play Date," a ribald farce and "The Consul, the Tramp & America's Sweetheart" is a comedic look at the fraught time in history as seen through the eyes of tinsel town luminaries. He has made Chaplin and Pickford living, breathing human beings not merely screen icons. The German Consul Georg Gyssling is also a historic figure who, in John's perception, is a complicated and many layered bureaucrat who happens to be a Nazi. The play is comedic and thought provoking. You might call it a laugh-filled history lesson." Choreographer, Ron Ray, is working with Peterson staging some of the moments reenacted from some of Chaplin's legendary silent movies.
The play runs through September 18. For tickets or information visit the company's website at www.oldcastletheatre.org or call 802-447-0564.