J.B., the Pulitzer Prize and Best Play Tony Award®-winner by the American playwright and poet Archibald MacLeish, will be the second production in City Lit’s 2017-18 season. Reviewing the original Broadway production in 1958, THE NEW YORK TIMES’s legendary critic Brooks Atkinson called it “A fresh and exalting morality that has great stature. It is one of the memorable works of the century as verse, as drama and as spiritual inquiry...We are deep in the unanswered problems of man's relationship to God in an era of cruel injustices.... In every respect, it is theatre on its highest level.”
MacLeish’s play, to be directed for City Lit by Brian Pastor, Artistic Director of Promethean Theatre Ensemble, takes place in a corner of an enormous circus tent, where two vendors prepare to perform a play based on the Book of Job. One vendor, Nickles (meant to signify the devil, who is sometimes called “Old Nick”), will play the Devil. The other vendor, Zuss (“Zeus”), will play God. The two choose J.B., a wealthy banker, to play their Job. After Nickles causes unimaginable pain and loss for J.B., J.B. asks three comforters, representing history, science and religion, to explain his misfortune. Unsatisfied by their answers, he asks God to justify his plight. Nickles encourages J.B. to commit suicide to spite God, but Zuss offers to give J.B. his old life back if he will promise to be obedient.
City Lit's production will be performed by an ensemble of nine women over the age of 55 who will take all twenty-three roles of men, women, and children in the play's cast of characters. Pastor’s cast will include Morgan McCabe (Nickles/1st Civil Defense Officer), Elaine Carlson (Mr. Zuss/2nd CDO), Stephanie Monday (J.B.), Judy Lea Steele (Sarah), Shariba Rivers (David/1st Reporter/Murphy/Eliphaz), Barbara Roeder Harris (Mary/1st Soldier/Police Officer 1/Adams), Susie Griffith (Jonathan/2nd Soldier/Police Officer 2/Lesure), Rainee Denham (Ruth/Girl/Jolly/Bildad), marssie Mencotti (Rebecca/2nd Reporter/Botticelli/Zophar).
Pastor says, "For a story that is, to an important degree, about a lack of agency, it felt right to cast the show entirely from a pool of actors who know all too well what that feels like. Furthermore, these women are so frequently competing against each other for a single, unnamed part. Here they're playing every role in an epic story: children, mothers, fathers, soldiers, roustabouts, police officers, and even gods."
City Lit Artistic Director Terry McCabe adds, "It's an old story in the theatre that as actresses age, there are fewer roles available to them. Obviously, this is bad for them; it is also bad for audiences deprived of the opportunity to see the work of talented and experienced women. The universality of J.B. is enhanced when we see that the struggles of the characters are the struggles of all of us and have nothing to do with gender or age."
Pastor’s production team will include Kaitlyn Grissom (Set Designer), Jessica Fialko (Lighting Designer), Daniel Carlyon (Sound Designer and Composer), Alaina Moore (Costume Designer), David Knezz (Mask Designer), Arielle Valene (Properties Designer), Anne Wrider (Assistant Director), Alexa Berkowitz (Stage Manager), and Hazel Flowers-McCabe (Production Manager).
J.B. will be performed at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, on the second floor of the historic Edgewater Presbyterian Church, from October 27- December 10, 2017. The press opening will be Sunday November 5, 2017 at 3:00 pm, following previews October 27 through November 4. Tickets are on sale now at www.citylit.org or 773-293-3682.
Archibald MacLeish (May 7, 1892 – April 20, 1982), born in Glencoe, Illinois, was an American poet and writer who was associated with the Modernist school of poetry. MacLeish studied English at Yale University and law at Harvard University. He enlisted in and saw action during World War One, and initially on his return to the US attended law school, and practiced law for three years. In 1923, he and his wife moved to Paris where he joined the community of literary American ex-patriates, including Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He returned to the United States in 1928, and pursued varied careers including serving as Librarian of Congress, Director of the War Department’s Office of Facts and Figures during WWII as well as writing a vast body of work that included poetry, prose and drama.
Brian Pastor is the Artistic Director of Promethean Theatre Ensemble, where he directed THE LION IN WINTER and THE WINTER’S TALE (both of which received Broadway World Award Nominations for Best Director), HENRY V, THE DARK SIDE OF THE BARD, and GROSS INDECENCY: THE THREE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE. His acting credits include HAUPTMANN for City Lit and THE LARK and A STUDY IN SCARLET for Promethean. In 2015, Brian became the Executive Director at Raven Theatre after serving 10 and a half years on staff at City Lit Theater, including nine as Managing Director. He is also a former board and company member of The Mime Company and a founding company member of Chicago dell’Arte.
Terry McCabe has been City Lit’s artistic director since February 2005 and its producer since July 2016. He has directed plays professionally in Chicago since 1981. He was artistic director of Stormfield Theatre for four years, resident director at Wisdom Bridge Theatre for five years, and worked at Body Politic Theatre three separate times in three different capacities over a span of 14 years. His City Lit adaptations of HOLMES AND WATSON, GIDGET (co-adapted with Marissa McKown), THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, SCOUNDREL TIME, and OPUS 1861 (co-adapted with Elizabeth Margolius) were Jeff-nominated. He won two Jeff Citations for directing at Stormfield and has been thrice nominated for the Jeff Award for Best Director, for shows at Court Theatre, Wisdom Bridge, and Victory Gardens. He has directed at many Chicago theatres either long-gone or still with us, as well as off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre and at Vienna’s English Theatre. His book MIS-DIRECTING THE PLAY has been denounced at length in American Theatre magazine and from the podium at the national convention of The Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, but is used in directing courses on three continents and is now available in paperback and Kindle e-book.
By Archibald MacLeish
Directed by Brian Pastor
October 27- December 10, 2017
Previews October 27 – November 4
PRESS OPENING Sunday November 5, 2017 at 3:00 pm
Performances at City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Chicago 60660 (Inside Edgewater Presbyterian Church)
Preview ticket prices $28.00, seniors $23, students and military $12 (all plus applicable fees)
Regular run (November 5 – December 10) ticket prices $32.00, seniors $27.00, students and military $12 (all plus applicable fees)
Tickets on sale now at www.citylit.org or 773-293-3682.
City Lit Theater is located inside the historic Edgewater Presbyterian Church building at 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, one block west of Sheridan Road and a block and a half east of the Bryn Mawr Red Line L stop. The 84 Peterson bus, the 36 Broadway bus, the 147 Lake Shore Express bus, and the 151 Sheridan bus all stop near City Lit. Valet parking and self-parking are available for theatre customers who call ahead for details.
City Lit receives funding from the Alphawood Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, The Saints, and the Ivanhoe Theatre Foundation. City Lit specializes in literate theatre, including stage adaptations of literary material.