The need to feed the body, soul and ego are among the many ways in which hunger manifests itself in “What of the Night?”. The avant-garde work was written by María Irene Fornés, who became prominent during the 1960s for presenting feminist perspectives and multi-site performances on Off-Off-Broadway in New York. Due west and decades later, a revival of the Pulitzer-Prize nominated play is now making its Midwest premiere in Chicago thanks to Cor Theater and Stage Left Theatre.
“‘What of the Night?’ is among the most important plays in María Irene Fornés’s oeuvre, and I am thrilled by the prospect of giving it the theatrical life it deserves,” says the show’s director, Carlos Murillo, a Chicago-based writer who credits the Cuban-American playwright as one of his greatest influences.
“I first met Irene in the early 1990s when we were both in residence at New York Theatre Workshop’s summer retreat at the Hotchkiss School,” continues Murillo. “Her warmth and encouragement…went a long way to build my confidence. I later studied with her at Theatre for the New City, where her life-changing workshops helped shape both my writing and teaching of playwriting to this very day.”
Ambitious and intimate, “What of the Night?” examines the longings of an extended family by intertwining four one-acts together. To make this happen, Murillo sought the skills of designers Eleanor Kahn for set and props, Brenda Winstead for costumes, Eric Vigo for lights, and Jeffrey Levin for sound.
“The story of a family fighting the cycle of poverty fits neatly into our mission of inciting debate about political and social issues, and continues to resonate almost 30 years after its premiere,” says Stage Left Co-Artistic Directors Jason A. Fleece and Amy Szerlong. “We are so excited to partner with Cor Theatre and with Carlos Murillo for this multigenerational epic. We believe Stage Left’s issue-driven work combined with Cor’s daring will make this an outstanding, impactful production.”
The new production features the acting talents of Dionne Addai, Kathryn Acosta, Kate Black-Spence, Stephen Loch, Casey Morris, Miguel Nunez, Nelson Rodriguez, Allyce Torres, and Cor Theatre Artistic Director Tosha Fowler, who notes, “By combining Carlos’s passionate vision, Fornés’s poetically primal voice, Cor’s fearless aesthetic and Stage Left’s strong commitment to artists, ‘What of the Night?’ promises to be our biggest leap yet.”
“What of the Night?” performs from Jan. 8 through Feb. 12 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., in Chicago. Due to its sexual content and partial nudity, the production is for mature audiences only. For tickets ($18-$30) and more information, visit cortheatre.org or stagelefttheatre.com.
Photos by Janie Killips, Courtesy of Cor Theater and Stage Left Theatre