(HADDON TOWNSHIP, NJ) -- The Ritz Theatre Company presents the second show of its “Grand Reopening” season, Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce, a fast-paced, comedic, and action-packed journey of five characters in search of an almond, written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Sarah Ruhl. The production runs at The Ritz from October 22nd through November 7th.
“Sarah Ruhl’s plays are like a silly birthday gift with sincere meaning—they are a laugh wrapped in a delicate sigh,” says Ritz Associate Artistic Director Matthew Weil, who previously directed Melancholy Play at Rowan University in 2015 and now brings this passion project to the Ritz stage for the very first time. “The unique simplicity of Ruhl’s voice and poeticism is her trademark and this charming, little wisp of a play has been an obsession of mine since 2014. No matter how many other pieces I’ve directed over the years, on slow afternoons at my desk I’ve found myself cracking the binding of this play again and again—just to take a peek, just to experience how it made me feel again.”
The story of Melancholy Play revolves around the occasionally melancholic bank teller Tilly and her emotional-driven, at times absurdist adventure alongside several other characters who just happen to fall head over heels in love with her. The reason? Tilly’s melancholy is of an exquisite quality; she turns her melancholy into a sexy thing, something almost irresistible to every stranger she meets. Then, one day, inexplicably, Tilly becomes happy, and thus wreaks havoc on the lives of all her paramours. Chaos ensues (with a tinge of madness in the form of an almond), as all the characters search for love and try to find it wherever and whenever they can, demonstrating firsthand that love has the power to transform emotions and can lead to happiness or strife.
“Sarah Ruhl writes for the stage, and by that, I mean she writes plays that are consciously aware they are theatre,” says Weil. “She doesn't shy away from talking directly to the audience, without restraint, and with a masterful blend of lifted prose and human simplicity. As a director, I find her approach to be extremely fresh, engaging, and a constant source of artistic inspiration.”
Tickets are: General Admission — $30; Artist/Student Rush — $15. Tickets are available for purchase online, by calling (856) 288-3500, or at the box office.
The original production of Melancholy Play premiered in 2002 at the Piven Theater in Evanston, Illinois. It has been revived numerous times since, both nationally and abroad, and has become a staple of the Sarah Ruhl oeuvre. According to Weil, the piece may also now be more culturally significant than ever, with its expressive treatise on the idea of human togetherness something any audience member can identify with and relate to.
“This play, while it is a comedy, oozes with social relevance that is unmistakable—it doesn't hide several layers below the surface, it doesn’t require a trained eye or a cerebral approach, it’s right there in front of you for your consumption. I believe the audience will find Melancholy Play to be deeply relevant to our lives as Americans, and coming off the coattails of what has been, for many, the most isolating year of our lives, an emotional healing we didn’t know we needed.”
This Ritz production of Melancholy Play aspires to amalgamate absurdist comedy with a poignant study of melancholy, honing in on the beating heart of the story to examine the kind of profound empathy that emanates directly from sadness. The production features Liat Kovnator as Tilly, Aidan McDonald as Frank, Kristy Joe Slough as Frances, Reuben E. Natan as Lorenzo, Marissa Wolf as Joan, and Ken Lightfoot as Julian. All are keen on bringing their director’s vision to life and to strike a certain chord with the viewing audience.
“I hope the audience leaves tickled and kinder than they entered the theater,” concludes Weil. “Melancholy Play is side-splittingly funny, but it also carries a gentle message of how we take care of those in our lives who are sad, depressed, or just melancholy. As Ruhl says, it is part of the social contract. It is my goal that our audiences leave the theater feeling lighter than they entered, healed perhaps, and ready to partake in the social contract.”
The production team includes: Bruce A. Curless — Producing Artistic Director; Matthew Weil — Associate Artistic Director; AJ Klein — Technical Director; Sara Viniar — Stage Manager; Jen Donsky — Set & Lighting Design; Briana Bailey — Costume Design; and Matthew Gallagher — Sound Design.
**Please be advised that, due to COVID-19, audience members over the age of 12 will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when entering The Ritz Theatre. Exceptions will be made for people with a medical or religious exemption to vaccination. These guests must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 36 hours of the performance time or a negative antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance time. Children under the age of 12 will be exempt from all aforementioned requirements. All guests, regardless of age or vaccination status, will be required to wear masks while inside the theatre building.**
The Ritz Theatre Company is located at 915 White Horse Pike in Haddon Township, New Jersey.