The Edge of the Universe Players 2 will release Laughter in the Shadow of the Trees by James Prideaux beginning September 1, 2021, as an audio play. This will be Universe Players’ second online audio play after last year’s highly praised production of The Marriage Proposal by Chekhov. This performance of Laughter—originally a BBC radio play—is believed to be its U.S. premiere.
“With the pandemic still wreaking havoc and confusion, we decided on the audio format once again,” says Co-Producer and Founding Board Member Bill Goodman. “There is tremendous power in the theater of the mind, and we believe that the visual imagination often exceeds actual images.”
The play, first published in 1996, revolves around a successful literary critic suffering from Alzheimer’s, and the struggle his wife and daughter face with their loyalty to a father who still has flashes of brilliance, alternating with severe dementia. The play features David Bryan Jackson as the critic Martin, Sarah Marshall as Felicia, his devoted wife, and Holly Twyford as Jan, the much affected daughter.
David Bryan Jackson has performed at The Kennedy Center, Shakespeare Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, and many more in DC and elsewhere. He will also serve as sound designer for the play, having composed music for various other productions.
Sarah Marshall has decades of experience in many roles at virtually all of the most prominent DC-area theaters, most recently starring in the much acclaimed production of Doubt at Studio Theatre. She has also taught acting at Georgetown University for 30 years.
Actor and Director Holly Twyford is a multiple Helen Hayes Award nominee and four-time winner who has performed in close to 80 productions in the region at such theaters as Arena Stage, Shakespeare, Studio, Woolly Mammoth, and more. Outside of the stage, her credits include commercials, voiceovers, TV, and several independent films.
Stephen Jarrett, who also directed last year’s The Marriage Proposal, returns to Universe Players to direct Laughter in the Shadow of the Trees. He was educated in theater at Yale Drama School and Catholic University and has extensive experience in Washington, DC, New York, and Europe. He has also previously directed productions of The Summoning of Everyman in 2013 and Entertaining Mr. Sloane in 2015 for Universe Players.
Jarrett stumbled upon Laughter in the Shadow of the Trees while reading another play by Prideaux. Due to the intricacies of dealing with the Prideaux estate, it took close to six months to secure performance rights, something that typically takes just a few days or less.
“The time it took to get the rights is a testament to just how passionate I was about putting on this production,” says Jarrett. “Prideaux’s play gives us an extraordinary glimpse of the havoc dealt to a loving family by the ravages of dementia, while providing the actor with rewarding challenges.”
James Prideaux was the author of some 20 plays, including, on Broadway, The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, which won Tony Awards for Julie Harris and Leora Dana, and the New York Drama Desk Award for Prideaux. His plays have been produced at Playwrights Horizons, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center. Drama or comedy, Prideaux was adept at both. His musical spoof Jane Heights was a major hit of the Los Angeles theatrical season in the mid-1980s. And yet he was also the author of Lyndon, an incisive inquiry into the world of Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam War, starring Jack Klugman on the stage and Laurence Luckinbill on the screen. For television, Prideaux created three films starring Katharine Hepburn. For radio, Prideaux created Stuffings, which starred Meryl Streep, and Laughter in the Shadow of the Trees, with Sir John Gielgud and Dame Wendy Hiller, on BBC. Prideaux died in 2015.
Laughter in the Shadow of the Trees will be available via Universe Players’ website September 1 to 30, 2021, for a $5 charge. Running time will be just under 40 minutes. For advance reservations, click here.
The Edge of the Universe Players 2 Inc. was founded in 2013 with the goal of producing plays with both high entertainment value and big meanings that transcend particular ages and cultures. The organization continues in the belief that theater can change some part of the human family toward a more bearable, insightful, hopeful, or self-determining state. The productions have received nearly unanimously positive reviews and enthusiastic audiences.
SEE ALSO: Levity and pleasure abound in ‘Marriage Proposal’ audio farce review by David Siegel