Never mind women over 40: City Lit populates full cast of biblical ‘J.B.’ with women over 55
This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
“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 Time’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, Elaine Carlson, Stephanie Monday, Judy Lea Steele, Shariba Rivers, Barbara Roeder Harris, Susie Griffith, Rainee Denham and Marssie Mencotti.
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. Tickets are on sale now at www.citylit.org or 773-293-3682.