Drexel University and Philadelphia theater company 1812 Productions have partnered together to present Jeffrey Hatcher's comedy confection To Fool The Eye, an adaptation of the romantic comedy Léocadia by Jean Anouilh, as part of Drexel's Mandell Professionals in Residence Project (MPiRP).
The production reunites celebrated Philadelphia actors Maureen Torsney-Weir and David Howey in their first stage appearance together since 2005's The Uneasy Chair at 1812 Productions, as well as welcoming Michael Doherty and 1812 newcomer Amanda Holston in the show's leading roles.
Nine students from the theater program at Drexel University's Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design will perform as the show's supporting ensemble, with several more assisting in the show's backstage operations.
To Fool The Eye will play from Thursday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, Mar. 3 at The Mandell Theater (3201 Chestnut St.). Opening night will be Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $22 to $38 and can be purchased by calling 215-592-9560 or at www.1812productions.org.
In To Fool The Eye, reality and fantasy collide as an eccentric duchess attempts to freeze in time the moment when her nephew found the great love of his life, the divine Léocadia. Following the diva's untimely death, the duchess has spared no expense recreating the scene of their encounter, so that her nephew may relive the moment again and again. For two years the scene plays on until chance makes its grand appearance in the form of a young girl named Amanda, a poor hat maker and perfect doppelganger for the lost Léocadia. With her entrance, the magnificent ruse begins to unravel as Amanda and the nephew together discover what lies beneath the great costume of love.
Hatcher's adaptation was written for the Guthrie Theatre and opened in October 2000. Artistic Director for 1812 Productions Jennifer Childs directs this production, which features a fluid set design - transforming to frame each of the play's elaborate locations - by Adam Rigger and original music composed by five-time Barrymore Award-winner Christopher Colucci.
This production is being co-produced by 1812 Productions and Drexel as part of Drexel's Mandell Professionals in Residence Project (MPiRP), which has provided administrative and production support to emerging and avant-garde Philadelphia regional theater companies through the theater program at Drexel's Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design while introducing students to the full working process of creating professional theater.
"The Mandell Professional in Residence Project is a one-of-a-kind initiative that brings theater, music and dance professionals to Drexel for performance, production and instruction," said Allen Sabinson, dean of Westphal College. "The chance to work alongside 1812 Productions is a special delight and just one of the exciting performance opportunities offered to Drexel students by Westphal College's performing arts department."
Since 2006, theater companies such as Pig Iron Theater Company, New Paradise Laboratories and Azuka Theatre have all staged co-productions at Drexel, featuring students acting alongside professionals as well as in support roles behind the scenes. In each partnership, the theater company's artistic director has taught courses in Drexel's theater program and directed the final production. In 2009, The Long Christmas Ride Home, a partnership with Azuka Theatre, won a Barrymore Award.
"The residency program at Drexel is a unique opportunity and we have had an amazing time working with the students and faculty here," said Childs. "I have wanted to do To Fool the Eye for quite some time and for many reasons. It is a fantastic farce that conceals a stirring meditation on memory and loss. There is a sadness and ache that lay under the whimsy-an urgency to say 'I love you' before it is too late. All of this held within a very deep, very funny, incredibly romantic love story. I'm thrilled to finally have it as part of our season."
1812 Productions was founded in 1997 and is the only professional theater company in the country dedicated to comedy. Their education program, 1812 Outreach, has received multiple nominations and been awarded the Barrymore Award for Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service. On April 20, 2005, 1812 Productions received an honorary citation from the City of Philadelphia for outstanding work and commitment to the Philadelphia arts community. In 2010, they were honored as one of only 10 theaters in the country to receive a National Theatre Company grant from the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. 1812 Productions, while continually on the search for a permanent home, continues to perform at various locations in Philadelphia.