Transport Group and Lucille Lortel Theatre will present a limited engagement of Joey Merlo’s On Set with Theda Bara February 6–March 9, 2024, at the 50-seat The Brick in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Opening night is set for February 14.
Six-time Obie winner David Greenspan (Some Men, The Boys in the Band) will play all four characters in Theda Bara, which premiered in February at The Exponential Festival. Jack Serio (Uncle Vanya, This Beautiful Future) directs the production, which is set around a 32-foot-long table.
In the solo show, a genderqueer teen goes missing and their gay detective father comes face-to-face with the supernatural and consciousness-devouring Theda Bara, the real-life vamp and silent film star of the 1910s.
“On Set with Theda Bara uses the mythology of the silent film star and anti-hero Theda Bara as a metaphor for queerness,” says playwright Merlo. “I’m a lyrical playwright who loves the campy, surreal, and melodramatic. My plays explore the cracks between the boundaries of what’s ‘real’ and what isn’t—by fusing the two, I attempt to locate my own existence within the realm of the fantastic. Theda Bara was written in a fever-dream state, literally, as I was very sick at the time and mostly bedridden. From that state, I used a cinematically imagistic narrative to create a play that transcends the traditional theatrical experience and invites a collaboration between audience, performer, and text.”
“I'm so thrilled that Transport Group and Lucille Lortel Theatre have made it possible to bring Joey Merlo’s singular vision back to the stage,” adds director Serio. “Joey’s play is as funny as it is genuinely spooky, seamlessly blending camp and horror. Staged as an intimate seance seated around a 32-foot-long table, audiences will experience David Greenspan's athletic, hilarious, and deeply human performance just inches away from him. This kind of intimate theatregoing is what I get most excited about and what I believe allows us to lean in, consider stories more deeply, and be our most present selves.”
The original creative team for On Set with Theda Bara will return for the upcoming production, including scenic designer Frank J. Oliva, costume designer Avery Reed, lighting designer Stacey Derosier, and sound designer Brandon Bulls. Derosier and Oliva received 2023 Henry Hewes Design Award nominations for their work on the production.