For Immediate Release The Little Theatre
70-20 47th Avenue
BIG NEWS FROM LITTLE THEATRE: fIRST pRODUCTION OF ORIGINAL PLAY BY PUBLISHED NOVELIST;
CAGNEY COMEDY, DESIGNERS WITH DIRTY FACES, TO KEEP AUDIENCE IN STITICHES;
What do grapefruits, seagulls, the Salmon of Knowledge, 1930s gangsters, and Greek tragedy have in common? “Not much,” you might say. Well, the Little Theatre of St. Mary’s of Woodside, NY is out to change all that with its first production of an original comedy, Designers with Dirty Faces by novelist John Kearns. Designers with Dirty Faces, parodies the gangster film genre popularized by James Cagney as well as the conventions of Greek tragedy, Irish saga, and Hamlet. Performances will be at 8 PM on Fridays and Saturdays July 25th and 26th and August 1st and 2nd at The Little Theatre 70-20 47th Avenue, Woodside, NY. (See www.conventplayers.org/directions.htm for how to get there.)
In Designers with Dirty Faces, James Cagney is a ruthless Lower East Side clothing racketeer who rubs out his competition with grapefruits. He doesn’t want anyone in dresses besides him. When he kills German immigrant, rival clothing designer, and shopping-mall visionary, Helmut Deutschland, it is up to Klein Deutschland to avenge his father’s death. Too bad he’s a bumbling idiot. However, after Klein Deutschland – a character part Hamlet, part Finn MacCool, and part Inspector Closeau – accidentally gets a taste of the Salmon of Knowledge, he gains the intelligence and confidence he needs to track down Cagney. Cagney’s moll, Chrystie, faces a difficult choice when she discovers that she is Klein Deutschland’s long-lost sister. Along the way, Cagney, Klein, and Chrystie encounter a variety of comical characters including a German seamstress, an Irish cop, a hardboiled reporter, some Lower-East-Side bar denizens, a histrionic lawyer, and a suggestible judge.
“For more than five years the Little Theatre has produced well-known musicals and plays,” says Designer- wit-Dirty-Faces Producer and Little-Theatre Founder, Roger Gonzalez. “Last year, we made our first foray into children’s theatre with our successful production of Hansel and Gretel. This summer we decided to produce an original comedy by author of the novel, The World, John Kearns. Designers with Dirty Faces had a staged reading at Rocky Sullivan’s Pub in 2000 and is a clever combination of cinematic and literary parody. Plus, it’s very funny!”
A lot of the laughs in Designers with Dirty Faces come the language of the play, a kind of slapstick poetry full of 1930s slang and parodies of Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and Irish myth. Puns, plays on words, and twisted film and literary allusions abound. Even the name s of many of the characters are jokes. The reporter, Picture Snatcher, is named after the title of a Cagney movie. Several characters’ names derive from the streets of the Lower East Side: Chrystie, Delancey, Ludlow, Defense, Attorney, Allen, Stanton. The name of the “detective,” Klein Deutschland, is the old nickname of the Lower East Side, “Klein Deutschland” or “Little Germany” – before Manhattan’s Klein Deutschland moved uptown to Yorkville, birthplace of the actor, James Cagney.
“Designers with Dirty Faces also parodies well established story-telling conventions of film and literature,” said Playwright and Director, John Kearns. “It pokes fun at the conventions of gangster movies, a genre as old as Talkies as well as the conventions of father-avenging tales that stretch back through Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the Irish saga of Finn MacCool to Aeschylus’s Orestes.”
In addition to its multi-layered word play and its genre parodies, Designers with Dirty Faces addresses the immigrant experience in America. The play is a melting pot, much like the city and the neighborhood in which it is set.
“Designers with Dirty Faces features the immigrants of Old New York but it is certainly relevant to the struggles, conflicts, and dreams of immigrants today,” said Assistant Director Vanessa Rivera. “It’s fitting, too, that the play is debuting in Queens, New York’s most diverse borough. The Little Theatre is in Woodside, a historically Irish neighborhood that today welcomes people from Latin America, Asia, and all over the world.”
“Perhaps the most significant theme in Designers with Dirty Faces, however, is the relationship between the artist and the audience’s expectations,” added Playwright and Director Kearns. “At the start of Designers with Dirty Faces, a character called the Playwright (Queens native Kelly Ratcliff) promises the audience a realistic, focused, unified story. What follows is anything but … with some silly and surprising results!”
Designers with Dirty Faces features an outstanding cast from diverse backgrounds and with a wide range of experience in theatre, film, and television. Irish-American and former Lower-East-Side resident, Rob Brennan, plays James Cagney as well as Young Cagney. Irish-American Kate Grimes is Chrystie Deutschland. The Puerto-Rican-born Director of the Little Theatre’s Hansel and Gretel, Jose Rivera, plays Klein Deutschland. His investigative team is Officer Delancey (Irish native Fergal O’Connor) and Picture Snatcher (Queens native and Little-Theatre veteran, Kayla Schwartz.) New Yorker Amanda Minker introduces every scene as the 1930s Announcer Broad and plays Judge Ludlow. Mrs. Deutschland is played by Florida-born Christine Stuntz and Mr. Deutschland by Queens native Gary D. Morgan, who is also Attorney Stanton. New Yorker Christopher Mayor is Mango Mangan.
Irish-American John Kearns grew up in Philadelphia, where he attended Jesuit schools. He now lives in Yorkville with his wife, Mei. His novel, The World, is available at Amazon.com, Bn.com, and iUniverse.com and at all play performances. His novel in progress, Worlds, was named a finalist in the 2002 New Century Writers’ Awards. His one-act play, The Importance of Loving Shakespeare, was produced at the Eugene Frankel Theatre in New York in 1999. For more information, contact or Tcpinfoline@yahoo.com or visit http://www.conventplayers.org.