Greenfield Prize Commission Lands World Premiere

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY JUL 22, 2016

Bathing in Moonlight, the latest work from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and the result of the Hermitage Artist Retreat’s 2014 Greenfield Prize Commission will enjoy its world premiere Sep. 9 at the McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey. Created in conjunction with the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation, the Greenfield Prize is an annual award commissioning new works of art from promising artists to be created in a two-year time span. Sarasota audiences glimpsed an early draft of Bathing in Moonlight at Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Unplugged new play festival in April of 2015, but the McCarter run will be the first unveiling of the final draft and full production. Emily Mann directs.

“When Nilo’s plays are really working, there’s an enchantment that happens,” says Mann, who previously collaborated with Cruz on a McCarter production of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics, which Mann brought to Broadway in 2004. “This is one of those—one of his most enchanting. He has a way of spinning words that is just beautiful and takes you to another level.”

The story of a multi-generational Cuban-American family living in modern day Miami, problems attendant with the current housing crisis are assuaged and exacerbated by the arrival of a former priest into their lives. “It’s a love story and a family story,” says Mann, with overtones of spirituality and what it means to find home.

A multinational cast brings the story to life, with actors hailing from Colombia, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico and bringing credits ranging from Broadway to HBO. Mann reunites with Tony Award-winning Priscilla Lopez, whom she directed in Anna in the Tropics, and Michael Rudko, who appeared on Broadway with Helen Mirren in The Audience. Frankie J. Alvarez joins from HBO’s Looking and Raúl Mendez is set to make his American stage debut after a banner breakout year with The History Channel’s Texas Rising and the Netflix hit Narcos. Observing last month’s workshop, Mann was “blown away” and knew she had exactly who she needed to do the play justice. “Sometimes you just get lucky,” she says, “and the chemistry in the room is just beautiful.”

But even with all the luck in the world, Mann admits that the arts need help—the kind provided by the Hermitage and the Greenfield Prize. “The Prize and the Retreat are such incredible gifts,” says Mann. “It’s so hard to find the time, the space, the money to be able to spin these gorgeous tales. Without that support, theater as an art form cannot continue.”

Bathing in Moonlight premieres at the McCarter Theatre Center in New Jersey Sep. 9 and runs until Oct. 9.

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