DC THEATRE SCENE – DC theater veterans Kerri Rambow and Fiona Blackshaw headline George is Dead, written by comedic icon Elaine May (Heaven Can Wait, The Birdcage). The one-hour play, opening December 3rd, will be the inaugural show from The Klunch, the new theater company launched by Cherry Red Productions co-founder Ian Allen. (“The klunch” is slang for the very 2015 condition of being sucked into an online or social media rabbit hole of an obsession.) Allen also serves as director of George is Dead.
In this dark comedy, Blackshaw plays Carla, a woman who is at home waiting up for her husband to come home following a nasty fight. Her evening is suddenly interrupted by an unexpected visitor – wealthy Doreen (Rambow), who is grappling with the sudden death of her own husband, the aforementioned George. The two women haven’t seen each other in years, but tensions arise from their common connection – Carla’s mother was Doreen’s nanny. The show is a humorous look at the class divisions and tension simmering just below the surface of the women’s relationship.
What attracted you to these roles?
Kerri: I was a very late addition to the cast, due to another actress breaking her arm unfortunately. Ian called me and I quickly read the script. I called him back within an hour and said, “Yep. I want it.”
She’s such an archetype. She’s one of those characters you don’t always get to play a lot. It’s a throwback to an old style, which I love. My immediate image was that of Elizabeth Ashley. This grand dame.
Doreen is very privileged She has married very well. It’s funny because the husband – I don’t think this is giving anything away considering the title – is dead. He has just died. And she never ever once talks about loving him. It’s more a matter of “Oh my God – now who’s going to take care of me?”
Fiona: Carla is an interesting one. She’s on a second marriage, which isn’t going well. She’s got an elderly mother she takes care of. She’s a woman who feels very put upon. And then Doreen shows up in her apartment and basically doesn’t leave. … (read more)
Producer Kate Debelack with actors Fiona Blackshaw and Kerri Rambow, buried beneath a pile of paper.
Fiona Blackshaw, Kerri Rambow, and Jean H. Miller. Photo by Chelsea Bland. View more photos here.
In today’s Washington Post…
There is good news this week for fans of shock-and-awe theater: The thespian masterminds behind Cherry Red Productions are back. This time around, though, they plan to tone down the sex, blood and incest.
Cherry Red Productions, affectionately known as Washington’s raunchiest theater company, shuttered in 2011 after nearly two decades of putting on plays that didn’t hold back. This week, Cherry Red’s former artistic director, Ian Allen, announced plans to revive his collective under a new name, the Klunch. An impressive list of local theatrical types have signed up for the new endeavor, which will debut in December with Elaine May’s dark comedy “George Is Dead.”
“Yes, we did shows like ‘Cannibal Cheerleaders,’ but they take an outsized share when people remember Cherry Red,” Allen said from his New York home. “With this company, I’m not going to shy away from the sex and the violence, but that won’t be a main brand.”
Allen’s move to New York — where he runs a boutique theater marketing agency — was a big reason Cherry Red shut down. But he also thought the collective had outlived its era.
“Our first show was in 1995,” Allen said. “It was the age of ‘South Park’ and ‘Pulp Fiction.’ . . . With this company, we are starting something new. I’m just completely thrilled. . . . We rallied the troupes and shook the trees, and I’m really excited by what fell out. We have playwrights, directors, actors and designers.”
The Klunch collective takes its name from a slang term meaning getting sucked down the social-media or online-gaming rabbit hole. The “Klunchers” include people who are still based in Washington and folks who have moved away but will return home at least once a year to put on a new show. Names in the former category include director Joe Banno; playwright/director Kathleen Akerley; Christopher Henley, former artistic director of Washington Shakespeare Company (now WSC Avant Bard); and B. Stanley, executive director of the D.C. Arts Center.
The D.C. Arts Center, a tiny black-box in Adams Morgan, is where the Klunch plans to open “George Is Dead” on Dec. 3. The play has been on Allen’s mind since he saw it on Broadway in 2011 as part of a triptych that included microplays by Ethan Coen and Woody Allen.
May is better known for her screenwriting career than for her stagework; her film credits include “Primary Colors” and “The Birdcage.” But Allen thinks the play about a wealthy woman forced to deal with a tragedy affecting a former employee is just the sort of gripping drama the Klunch wants to produce.
“You can get in a klunch, meaning you are bringing the audience in, and really getting them involved,” Allen said.