The Blue Raccoon

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Widow's Blind Date
At the Firehouse Theatre -- November 13 - December 6, 2008

I missed the opening night last week -- something I don't often do; in the 16 years of the company I've not made it to the openings of six or so of our more than 60 productions. Anyway, I'm going this weekend. Any members of the billion-eyed audience within the range of my voice should try to make it, too -- be warned. This is an emotionally fraught play that packs a wallop. Not a light night at the theater.

Don't take my word for it. The review from the Times-Dispatch's Susan Haubenstock got saddled with a lackluster head and subhead, but once you get past that, she has some good observations. She writes:

"Horovitz's play is intense, dramatic and violent, and in director Bill Patton's production, the actors embody the shifting levels of threat, humor and sexuality with emotional and physical precision."

Read the whole thing here.

The playwright will be in town Dec. 5 for a talk-back session following the play.

The Widow’s Blind Date

by Israel Horovitz

The Story

(Photo by Jay Paul. Pictured are Ford Flannagan, Landon Nagel, and Jennifer Massey)

The scene is a wastepaper processing plant in a blue-collar Massachusetts town. Two workmen, Archie and George, are drinking beer and swapping stories, mostly about their apparently extensive sexual conquests. Archie mentions that Margy, a friend from high school and now a widow, has invited him to join her for a dinner. When she arrives to pick Archie up, the mood of the play shifts. Suddenly, the play’s original macho bantering takes on new and dangerous meanings. Margy will subtly set the two men against each other while gradually revealing her contempt for her former classmates, whose lives have remained in a rut, she says, while she went on to bigger and better things living in the big city. But this is only the beginning of Margy’s complaint…

“Mystery, menace, confrontation, violence, resolution - these are the phases of Israel Horovitz’s remarkably naturalistic play The Widow’s Blind Date.”
- NY Post

“...the playwright’s toughest, grittiest play.”
- Variety


Individual - $25; Seniors - $22; Student - $10 with valid ID. Tickets may be purchased online at, or by calling (804) 355-2001.


8:00 p.m. Thursdays - Saturdays; Sunday matinees 11/16, 11/23 and 11/30 at 4:00 p.m. Doors open a half-hour before showtime.

Special Events

(There were a bunch and I missed most of them).

Friday, November 21 - Talk Back Night - join Virginia Commonwealth University’s Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates and The Conciliation Project, a social justice theatrical group, after the show for a discussion about the production.

Friday, December 5 - Talk Back Night - join playwright Israel Horovitz after the show for a discussion about the production.

The Playwright

One of America’s most celebrated dramatists, Israel Horovitz has written more than 50 produced plays, many of which have been translated and performed in more than 30 languages worldwide. Among his best-known plays are Line (which is now in its 33rd year of continuous performance at off-Broadway’s 13th Street Repertory Theatre), Park Your Car in Harvard Yard, The Primary English Class, The Widow’s Blind Date, The Indian Wants the Bronx for which he won the Obie Award for Best Play, and My Old Lady which ran on Broadway in 2002.

His 1982 film Author! Author!, starring Al Pacino, is a largely autobiographical account of a playwright dealing with the stress of having his play produced on Broadway while trying to raise a large family. Other Horovitz films include the award-winning Sunshine, co-written with Istvan Szabo (European Academy Award - Best Screenplay), 3 Weeks After Paradise (which he directed and in which he starred), James Dean, an award-winning biography of the actor, and The Strawberry Statement (Prix du Jury, Cannes Film festival, 1970), a movie adapted from a journalistic novel by James Simon Kunen that deals with the student political unrest of the 1960s.

He has won numerous awards for his work, including two Obies, the Drama Desk Award, The Sony Radio Academy Award, an Award in Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Governor of Massachusetts’ Leadership Award, and many others.

Horovitz is the former artistic director of the Gloucester Stage Company in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which he founded in 1979. He founded The New York Playwrights Lab in 1975, and still serves as the NYPL’s Artistic Director.

Previously produced plays by Horovitz at Firehouse Theatre Project include: North Shore Fish, Lebensraum, Fast Hands, Compromise, The Secret of Mme Bonnard’s Bath, and Acrobats.

The Cast and Director

Bill Patton (Director)has directed eight shows for the Firehouse Theatre Project: Kingdom of Earth, The Heidi Chronicles, Speed-the-Plow, The Big Slam, Lebensraum, Buried Child, Edmond, Because He Can, and Death of Bessie Smith. The Firehouse was grateful and honored to have him back to perform in last season’s The Late Henry Moss. He also played the lead in Fast Hands. Patton holds an MFA in directing from New York University, an M.Th. in counseling from Duke University, and an M.Div. from Philadelphia Seminary. He served as the Artistic Director of the Force 13 Theater Co. in NYC and the Director-in-Residence at Southampton College in Long Island, New York. In 1976, he directed the acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Kingdom of Earth at the IRT Theater, and was honored by several visits from Williams, himself. Patton has also served as Executive Director of the Beaufort Marine Institute in South Carolina and has been a commercial fisherman in Alaska. His most recent academic position was as a professor at the College of Charleston, where he taught Acting and Theater History. He currently teaches acting classes at the Firehouse.

Ford Flannagan (George Ferguson) is making his first appearance with the Firehouse. Local credits include Barksdale Theatre’s productions of The Full Monty (Malcolm), Into the Woods (Narrator/Mysterious Man), Scapino (Carlo), and The 1940’s Radio Hour (Neal Tilden); Theatre IV’s productions of Crimes of the Heart (Barnette Lloyd), Of Mice and Men (George), DA (Charlie then), Four Part Harmony (Swen), and Peter Pan (Peter); Swift Creek Mill Playhouse’s productions of Greater Tuna (Arles, etc.) and Little Shop of Horrors (Seymour); and Theatre Virginia’s The Robber Bridegroom (Goat). Ford can also be seen in the Terrence Malick film, The New World and the HBO Mini Series, John Adams.

Jennifer Massey (Margy Burke) previously played all the female roles in Horovitz’s The Secret of Madame Bonnard’s Bath at the Firehouse. Other Firehouse credits include: The Vagina Monologues and Dinner with Friends. Local credits include Barksdale’s Intimate Apparel, The Fifth of July, and Light Up the Sky; and Richmond Ensemble Theatre’s Tally’s Folly. Regional stage
credits include performances with The Alliance Theatre (Atlanta); Flat Rock Playhouse (NC); for the new playwright’s project at Arena Stage (Washington, DC); and with the renowned Women’s Shakespeare Company (LA). In Los Angeles, she also performed with the Deaf, including numerous productions at acclaimed Deaf West Theatre. Television credits include principal roles on One Tree Hill, Surface, Hack, The Practice, 7th Heaven, Charmed, Melrose Place, and Married...with Children among others. Film credits include The Wedding Crashers ("uncorked edition"), End of the Spear, and the recently released Graduation. She appears locally in various commercials and as the host of Richmond’s Comcast Newsmakers program.

Landon Nagel (Archie Crisp) is making his Firehouse debut with this production. Local credits include Barksdale’s Guys and Dolls (Benny SouthStreet); TheatreVCU’s Cabaret (Cliff), When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder (Teddy), Medea (Jason), and A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Pseudolus). Landon has been acting in the Richmond area for over ten years. He has performed with SPARC, Theatre IV, The Barksdale Theatre, Paramount’s Kings Dominion, and Spirit Cruise Lines on the Annabel Lee. Look for him next in Barksdale’s Children of a Lesser God.

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