Following a sold-out and critically acclaimed start to their 18th season, Theatre Exile returns to present the Philadelphia premiere of The Whale by Samuel D. Hunter from February 5 to March 1, 2015 at Theatre Exile’s Studio X, 1340 S. 13th Street (13th and Reed Street). This big-hearted and darkly comic story is about a 600-pound man’s last chance for acceptance and redemption as he struggles to connect in the 21st century. Previews begin on Thursday, February 5, and opening night is Wednesday, February 11 at 8:00pm. Tickets are on sale now for $10.00 to $40.00 at www.theatreexile.org or by phone (215) 218-4022.
American playwright Samuel D. Hunter brings audiences to the edge of Mormon Country where they will meet Charlie, a 600-pound man who has let his couch and his self-imposed isolation nearly swallow him whole. Since the death of his partner, Charlie has beached himself inside his tiny apartment where he spends his days tutoring students online, enjoying the pleasures of gay porn and eating himself to death. Charlie unexpectedly tries to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter only to find himself avoiding harpoons she, and others in his life, thrust his way. Championed by the Associated Press as "Compelling, funny, and unexpectedly impactful," This away winning story explores redemption and of finding beauty in the most unexpected of places.
“The Whale is a natural piece for Theatre Exile because it catches the nuances of our humanity in the most difficult of times,” said Exile Producing Artistic Director Deborah Block. The story illuminates Charlie’s beautiful humanity in a time when he struggles to find himself. He works to connect with those around him despite obstacles thrown in his way - by himself and others. The characters are so flawed and dysfunctional; yet it is through those flaws and the most unlikely of circumstances that the most unlikely of families form.
The Whale is directed by Theatre Exile’s Associate Artistic Director Matt Pfeiffer. Scott Greer, an Exile favorite that has teamed up with Pfeiffer in Exile’s North of the Boulevard and Shining City, plays the main character Charlie. Greer will be fitted with a specially designed costume by Costume Designer Alison Roberts. The final costume will take Greer at least an hour to put on for each performance, and is primed to be one of the most memorable images in recent times on a Philadelphia stage. Greer’s performance in The Whale follows another transformational role where he portrayed Valere in the critically acclaimed La Bête at Arden Theatre Company.
Four new actors will get their first introduction to Exile audiences in The Whale. Barrymore nominated actress Kate Czajkowski (Great Expectations at Arden Theatre Company, In The Next Room and Angels in America I & II at Wilma Theater) will play Liz, Charlie’s best friend, defender, placater and fag hag. Campbell O'Hare (Rapture, Blister, Burn at Wilma Theater, The Urban Retreat at Philadelphia Theatre Company) will play fierce-tongued hunter and unhappy daughter Ellie. Trevor William Fayle (Arcadia and Emma at Lantern Theatre Co., Tigers Be Still and Spacewang at Azuka Theatre Company), will play unexpected visitor Elder Thomas. Amanda Grove (Brainpeople by Luna Theater Company, Mistakes Were Made by 1812 Productions, Rudy: An American Tall Tale at Dixon Place NYC New Play Festival) will play Charlie’s ex-wife that makes a surprise return to help set Charlie free.
Thom Weaver (scenic and lighting designer), Christopher Colucci (composer and sound designer) and Alice Yorke (prop designer) return to Theatre Exile to bring to life Charlie’s tiny apartment encased within a nautical set where Charlie will be set adrift. Set, lighting, sound and props will add immersive elements that play homage to themes from Moby Dick and Jonah and the Whale.
The intimate Studio X seating plot will also take an unexpected shape to allow for Greer to have a special dressing room. Greer will himself be prisoner to the stage before each show, as the enormity of his costume won’t fit through the aisles or doors of Studio X. The length-wise seating will also give audience members an up-close-and-personal view of Charlie’s couch as it rides the waves to the last act.
The Whale runs February 5 through March 1, 2015 (opening night Wednesday, February 11 at 8:00pm). Tickets are $10.00 to $40.00 and are available online at theatreexile.org or by calling the Theatre Exile Box Office at (215) 218-4022. Performances for The Whale take place at Theatre Exile’s Studio X, 1340 S. 13th Street (13th and Reed Street). Theatre Exile will close its 2014/15 season with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee at Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey Place, from April 16 to May 17, 2015. For more information about Theatre Exile, please follow on Twitter at @theaterexile, like on Facebook, call (215) 218-4022 and visit theatreexile.org.
Theatre Exile’s work is supported by Honorary Producers June and Steve Wolfson, as well as the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, William Penn Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Wyncote Foundation.
ABOUT THE WHALE AND SAMUEL D. HUNTER
The Whale has been performed to critical acclaim in Denver Center Theatre, Playwrights Horizons in New York and Rep Stage in Baltimore/Washington D, as well as others. Samuel D. Hunter’s plays include, The Whale (2013 Drama Desk Award, 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play), A Bright New Boise (2011 Obie Award for Playwriting, 2011 Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), and The Few, A Great Wilderness and Rest. His plays have been produced by Playwrights Horizons, South Coast Rep, Victory Gardens, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Denver Center Theatre Company, Clubbed Thumb, Page 73, and elsewhere. Hunter was named a 2014 MacArthur Fellow and was a winner of the 2008-2009 PONY Fellowship, 2011 Sky Cooper Prize, 2012 Whiting Writers Award and the 2013 Otis Guernsey New Voices Award. His work has been developed at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, the Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, JAW West, and elsewhere. He has active commissions from LCT3, Steppenwolf, Playwrights Horizons, and MTC/Ars Nova. He is a member of New Dramatists, an Ensemble Playwright at Victory Gardens, a Core Member of The Playwrights’ Center, a member of Partial Comfort Productions, and is currently a Resident Playwright at Arena Stage. A native of northern Idaho near where The Whale is set, Hunter now lives in New York City. He holds degrees in playwriting from NYU, The Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and Juilliard.
ABOUT THEATRE EXILE
Founded in 1996 by Joe Canuso and Trish Kelly, Theatre Exile was created by a group of artists who wanted to rattle the gates of the mainstream. Drawn to plays that explore the complexities of the human condition and contain a sense of true Philadelphia grit and passion, Exile has produced 56 full-scale productions, including 14 world premieres and 26 Philadelphia premieres. They were the first Philadelphia organization to produce such powerhouse playwrights as Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner Tracy Letts, Noah Haidle, Rona Munro, David Harrower, Annie Baker, Rajiv Joseph, Mike Bartlett, Sharr White and Lucas Hnath. For their excellence in producing theatre, they have received 60 Barrymore Award nominations, with nine awards total. Theatre Exile believes in freedom of expression formulated through innovation, exploration and provocation, all while providing a safe and creative environment, in which local artists can grow, experiment and ultimately, find their own voice.