Playwright known for Twilight Zone-like dramas takes a leap into the comedic space.

September 3, 4, 10 and 11, 2021 at 7:00 PM
The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South
Presented by We Three Productions
Running time: 90 minutes
September 3: $75. Benefit for We Three Productions, includes show, drinks and appetizers.
September 4, 10, 11: $35. Proper dress is required to attend all performances at The Players.
Buy tickets: https://tinyurl.com/wwx7j99f
Opens September 3. Critics are invited to all performances.
Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/x6e5b2JxyboFREjq7

NEW YORK, July 28 -- On September 3, 4, 10 and 11, We Three Productions will present "Roles and Rules of Comedy," an evening of six short, diabolical comedies written and directed by Harold Dean James, at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South. James has assembled a loyal following at La MaMa for his supernatural dramas that employ unconventional video and stage techniques. This is his first foray into the comedy space.

Like Strindberg’s "Dream Play," the plays of Harold Dean James put a surreal spin on the sufferings and celebrations of everyday characters, offering unusual reflections of everyday life. Frequently they show a victim peering back at his ordinary life to savor fate and see "what if." These six playlets, written in deadpan comedy style, deal with themes of secrecy, charity, the power of art, greed, seduction and afterlife. In most of them, unexpected relationships erupt between strangers, either in unlikely places (like a museum, or a bus stop) or between an everyday Joe and a departed spirit. Reading them, you might feel like you are going to the Twilight Zone with Israel Horovitz.

Mr. James grew up in an African-American family of Jehovah's Witnesses in Alameda, CA (his clan is still in the faith). He was an actor for "umpteen years," appearing in Broadway's "Mastergate," Bill Irwin's "Largely New York" at City Center and in a multitude of Off-Broadway and Shakespeare productions. Also a videographer, he collaborated for 12 years with Dennis Diamond and employed video amply in his earliest theater productions. James studied theater at San Francisco State, but lists as his theatrical mentors Uta Hagen and Earle Hyman.

He made his La MaMa debut in 1993 with "X Train," in which the realities and feelings of a middle-class Black man's dark past are juxtaposed with beatific video fantasies such as sudden friendship among subway commuters, meeting a dream lover, being rescued by aliens and the train’s "submarining" through the East River. In "Dance Card" (La MaMa, 1996), the surprise killing of her husband causes a woman painter to have an intriguing series of changes in her life and perceptions over a two-year period. The production contained surprising and eerie exchanges of identity as the killer entered and re-entered the artist’s life in different forms. The experience, manifest in her paintings, was illustrated in the production by Dali-esque and Picasso-esque paintings by a surrealist artist, Wayne Kral. In "Call Backs" (La MaMa, 1998), a woman scorned at summer theater auditions wreaks 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 spend the rest of the play gaping at their bodies from a netherworld while they are mocked in a series of outrageous monologues. With "What Happend to Me?" (Dance Theater Workshop, 1992; La MaMa, 2000), James commented provocatively on fate and destiny by taking the life of a homeless "everyman" and making it interchangeable with a variety of other characters, including a successful businessman, scholars, cowboys and religious zealots. Video screens displayed testimonials on the man's life by people who were involved in it. His only musical to-date was "The Good Faith, 1940-1990" (La MaMa, 2003), a drama of good intentions, betrayal and misplaced devotion among Jehovah's Witnesses. In 2019, he staged a developmental reading at The Players of his play "Land of the Free," a tragedy about a contemporary African American family living in northern California.

Beside his own works, Mr. James has directed "First Kill," a family drama by Frank Damico centering on a hunting trip; "The Lunatics’ Ball" by Claudia Menza, a character study of 14 New Yorkers played by five actors; and "Yanagai! Yanagai!" by Andrea James, a play with giant puppets inspired by folklore of the Yorta Yorta people of Australia.

"Rules and Roles of Comedy" will be acted by Paul Albe, FitzyFitz, Sharon Fogarty, Ray Grist, Jesse N. Holmes, Donna Kennedy and Claudia Menza. Most of them are veterans of James’ prior works. Costumes are by Ramona Ponce.

The September 3 performance will be an opening night gala benefit for We Three Productions. $75 tickets include the show, drinks and appetizers. Performances September 4, 10, 11 will be $35. All four performances start at 7:00 PM and run 90 minutes. Proper dress is required to attend theater events at The Players. To buy tickets, go to https://tinyurl.com/wwx7j99f.

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CRITICS ARE INVITED to all performances.
Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/x6e5b2JxyboFREjq7