THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY TO PRESENT
"LUDWIG AND BERTIE" BY DOUGLAS LACKEY, DIRECTED BY ALEXANDER HARRINGTON
WHERE AND WHEN:
September 26 to October 13
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave.,
Presented by Theater for the New City
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
Box office: www.theaterforthenewcity.net, (212) 254-1109
NEW YORK, August 1 -- "Ludwig and Bertie” by Douglas Lackey examines the relationship of two leading twentieth century philosophers, Ludwig Witthgenstein and Bertrand Russell. Theater for the New City will present the play's world premiere run September 26 to October 13, directed by Alexander Harrington. The piece is a successor to TNC's production last season of "Arendt-Heidegger: A Love Story" by Lackey, which dramatized the troubling, lifelong affair between Zionist Hannah Arendt and Nazi sympathizing philosopher Martin Heidegger. It was also directed by Harrington.
Is it possible that an act of child abuse perpetrated by an Austrian schoolteacher in 1926 could have created the 21st century's demolition of factuality and the post-truth world of Donald Trump? The answer is “yes” if the teacher was Ludwig Wittgenstein, a man otherwise recognized as one of the great philosophers of the twentieth century. That is the premise of this wildly plausible new play, which charts the forty-year love/hate relationship between the philosopher Bertrand Russell (“Bertie” to his friends) and his most famous student, Wittgenstein.
Wittgenstein and Russell begin as avatars of modernism, committed to logic, mathematics, and science as the source of truth. Wittgenstein creates a modernist book, and then designs a modernist house, each with as many sharp angles as a painting by Mondrian. But it all goes wrong in 1926, and Wittgenstein wakes up in a post-modern, post-truth world. Russell tries desperately to hold on to modernism, but Wittgenstein supplants him at Oxford and Cambridge, and around the world. The play transforms these intellectual currents into a vivid personal drama which plays out at many levels. Russell was heterosexual and hedonist; Wittgenstein was puritanical and gay. Russell was an imprisoned pacifist; Wittgenstein a decorated combat soldier. Wittgenstein was intensely religious; Russell mocked religion from first to last. Their clashes take many comic turns, as Russell struggles to penetrate into a mind as hermetically sealed as a Zen monk’s. On balance, the play is a comedy, but it a comedy with tragic results for the past century and for our own.
Playwright Douglas Lackey has two lives, as a playwright and a philosophy professor. He is a Professor of Philosophy at Baruch College, CUNY, where he has taught since 1972. But he has a 16 year relationship with Theater for the New City, which has presented all his plays to-date. His first play presented there, "Kaddish in East Jerusalem" (2003), dealt with issues of the Second Intifata.. His "Daylight Precision" (2014) was a historical drama examining "just war" theories through an unsung hero of World War II, Gen. Haywood Hansell. His unproduced play, "A Garroting in Toulouse" (2016), set in the Thirty Years War, dramatizes the differences, still with us, between the Protestant sense of sin and the Catholic sense of redemption.
Lackey writes, "I am grateful to Crystal Field and Theater for the New City for encouraging me to present the story of Wittgenstein and Russell and their astonishing relationship."
Director Alexander Harrington staged the premieres of Douglas Lackey’s "Arendt-Heidegger: A Love Story" last season and "Daylight Precision" in 2014. He has directed in New York theaters at Metropolitan Playhouse, La MaMa, The Culture Project, Queens Theatre, and The Actors Studio and at many regional theaters. He founded The Eleventh Hour Theatre Company and was 2012 artistic director of the student ensemble at HB Studio. He has directed his own adaptations of Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov," Chekhov's short story "The Kiss" and a chapter from Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio" titled "The Philosopher." He translated and directed Aeschylus' "Agamemnon" and wrote a large-cast play, "The Great Society," about Lyndon Johnson. Harrington takes a special interest in classics and has directed numerous productions of Shakespeare and Greek tragedies. He has also developed and directed numerous contemporary plays and is widely published as a scholar and critic.
Harrington's productions have been widely praised for their simplicity, resourcefulness, expert acting and clarity of vision. The New Yorker (Liesl Schillinger) deemed his “Brothers Karamazov, Part I" a "gem of a production," adding, "the cast is remarkable." The New York Times (Margo Jefferson) wrote that part II of the adaptation was "resourcefully staged and intelligently dramatized." The New York Post (Donald Lyons) described his "Henry V" as "superb," deeming it "a riveting meditation on the heart of the matter – the simultaneous cruelty and glamour of power.” (http://alecharrington.wixsite.com/alexanderharrington)
Lacky and Harrington collaborated last season on Lackey's "Arendt-Heidegger: A Love Story" (TNC, September 27-October 14, 2018). The play dramatized the unlikely romance between Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, who were leading intellectuals of the twentieth century. In the 1920’s, they had a passionate affair. In the 1930’s, Heidegger became an ardent Nazi while Arendt became an ardent Zionist. After the war, they continued to correspond and meet in one of the more puzzling relationships of twentieth century intellectual history. The drama played to full houses during its three week run and drew enthusiastic reviews.
REVIEWS OF "ARENDT-HEIDEGGER: A LOVE STORY"
"Our highest recommendation! A thoroughly enthralling drama of ideas, romance, and politics – worthy of the great tradition of Shaw and Ibsen. This show will engage your heart and your mind at the deepest levels." -- Ronald Gross, New York Theater Buying Guide
"This play is mesmerizing in its many now-familiar aspects to our current situation. The casting is perfect, making the story ever so plausible." -- Brenda Repland, Eyes on World Cultures
"Arendt-Heidegger: A Love Story, though small scene-wise, is huge in its character-driven, thought-provoking ideas, many of which, like racism (both genuine and opportunistic), along with the emergence of right-wing autocratic nationalism, like a virus gone wild, appears to be on the rise around the globe. It is a timely play to say the least." -- Edward Rubin, theatrecriticism.com
"Author Douglas Lackey and director Alexander Harrington have managed to extract a thought provoking stimulating performance from two of the most controversial public intellects of the twentieth century" -- Beate Hein Bennett, New York Theatre Wire
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