Lunatics Ball
First Floor
June 8 - 25, 2006
Thursday - Saturday 8:00pm*
Sunday - 2:30pm & 8:00pm
Tickets $18
*Please note that 6/8 performance opens at 7:30pm. Tickets $50
Written by Claudia Menza
Directed by Harold Dean James

Box office 212.475.7710

You can see and hear a lot of life in a New York taxi. "The Lunatics' Ball," by Claudia Menza, follows fourteen New Yorkers, played by five actors, among them a transvestite, a waiter, a homeless woman, and a voyeur, as they reflect, confess, complain, posture, fight, and romance. The work is directed by Harold Dean James and features his own videographic effects.

Everything begins and ends in the taxi, which is driven by a 55-year-old Italian-American--a good-hearted wiseguy who inspires confessions in some of his fares and arguments with others. The passengers reveal themselves primarily in monologues but occasionally in two- and three-character scenes. All are flavorfully written and rich in autobiographical detail. Ishmael Reed wrote of the book of poetry that led to this play, "The Lunatics' Ball" plumbs strata of the physical, psychological, and spiritual New York...she is an artist columnist who seeks the higher truths that lie hidden in the mundane....In Claudia Menza, New York has found the meta-reporter of its heartbeat."

The production is designed by director Harold Dean James, whose métier is transforming the stage space into other dimensions, often through innovative use of video. This play will be staged on a single set with movable seat modules and video portholes through which projections will establish the taxi, shifting fluidly to other locations, such as a bedroom, a nail salon, a bar, an analyst’s office, and the subway, as these New Yorkers tell their stories.

James' previous La MaMa productions have demonstrated his unusual use of technical effects to expand the concept of the stage space. His "X Train" (La MaMa, 1994) was a subway trip with special video effects that unraveled into a “Twilight Zone haze” (Hannaham, Village Voice). In "Call Backs" (La MaMa, 1998), a woman scorned at summer theater auditions wreaked a "Twilight Zone" revenge on the producers by gunning them down in revenge for their crudeness. Through stage effects, including innovative use of scrims, they spent the rest of the play gaping at their bodies from a netherworld while they were mocked in a series of outrageous monologues. James' other La MaMa productions include "Dance Card" (1996) and "What Happened to Me" (2000) and a musical, "The Good Faith," (2003). In all of the above, he was playwright and director. "The Lunatics' Ball" is his second time staging another playwright's work at La MaMa. The first was "First Kill," written and performed by Frank Damico (1999).

Claudia Menza is a poet turned playwright. Her books of poetry are "Cage of Wild Cries" (Mosaic Press, 1990) and "The Lunatics Ball" (Mosaic Press, 1994). The latter had the beginnings of the play, including a couple of its characters, and a title that was "so descriptive of New York I had to use it again." Her “Poem for Miles Davis” was published in "The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writing by Italian-American Women Writers" (Schocken Books, 1985), which is the winner of an American Book Award. Her work also appears in "I Speak of the City: Poems of New York" (Columbia University Press, 2007). She toured England in 1993 in "The Claudia and Charles Show," a scripted work about her literary marriage to her husband Charles Frye, based upon and using their work throughout the script. This is her first play; it began as a series of character monologues which she wrote as a transition from her poetry. She described how the play evolved, saying, "When writing in poetry, I wrote in first person to get inside the characters." Later, she performed the characters at universities, playing all the parts in an evening of about an hour.

Ms. Menza lives in the West Village. She started her literary career as Assistant Editor at "The Evergreen Review" from 1969-1973. She is a partner in The Menza-Barron Agency, a literary agency representing fiction and nonfiction.

The actors are Paul Albe, Daniel D. Clymer, Lynn Eldredge, Joy Kelly and Cezar Williams. Most have worked with Harold Dean James in prior productions.

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