Bury the Dead
A revival of Irwin Shaw's
classic American anti-war play
preceded by A Town Hall
Meeting by Joe Calarco
Directed by Joe Calarco
A revival of Irwin Shaw's classic American anti-war play, preceded by A Town Hall Meeting by Joe Calarco. Directed by Joe Calarco.
Transport Group presented the first major New York revival of this rarely seen play, with a contemporary and stunning interpretation. Bury the Dead takes place during "the second year of the war that is to begin tomorrow night." While a military burial detail goes about its sad duties, the dead soldiers shockingly begin to rise up, pleading not to be buried. Word of their insurrection spreads rapidly - the dead will not yield so easily. In a series of touching scenes the dead men talk with loved ones of the days of living, now lost forever.
Irwin Shaw wrote Bury the Dead, a masterwork of absurdist frustration, in 1936 during the tense peace between the two Great Wars of the twentieth century, making the play not a reaction to any specific event but rather to the grim farce of marching young men against one another. With Europe on the brink of war (it is no accident that he set his play "two years into the war that is to begin tomorrow night"), Shaw must have been keenly aware of what war might mean to him personally as a young man at the prime fighting age of twenty three. Yet Shaw himself is quoted as saying that it is not a pacifist play, and indeed when war did inevitably come, Shaw went and fought for his country.
Shaw wrote the play intending it for submission into a radical play contest. He missed the submission deadline but suffered little for his tardiness. The script, his first for the stage, opened straight on Broadway in a production by the Group Theater. That production featured 32 actors. Transport Group's production featured seven. Calarco's A Town Hall Meeting "framed" the story, and the meeting's Host (played by Champlin) recruited six men to the stage for the purpose of performing a reading of Shaw's play. Gradually the actors fell into the piece and became the soldiers who stand up in their graves in protest. Starring Donna Lynne Champlin, Jeremy Beck, Fred Berman, Mandell Butler, Jake Hart, Jeff Pucillo and Matt Sincell. Directed by Joe Calarco.
Transport Group's production of Bury the Dead was filmed for preservation by The Lincoln Center Theatre on Film and Tape Archives.
What the critics said:
"Impassioned revival" - NY Times
"Joe Calarco's excellent ensemble and designers masterfully blur and scramble the material... Bury the Dead emerges as a social-realist stage poem on the tests that every generation faces, in war or in peace." - Time Out New York
"This searing drama feels as up-to-date and urgent as an incoming text message." - Variety
"Asked to help persuade the dead men to accept theirfate, their surviving loved ones reunite with them in a series of brief and powerful scenes, the best of which occurs between a mother and the son who was killed in an explosion. Her silent anguish when he finally agrees to let her see his disfigured face is deeply moving." - NY Post
"In Transport Group's stylish production of Irwin Shaw's Bury the Dead, tears ran down my face." - Backstage
"Marvelous and affecting simplicity." - TheaterMania
"Slowly, [the characters] become immersed in the world and drama of this fictitious war -- as does the audience, thanks to the effective work of R. Lee Kennedy, whose dramatic lighting design allows the drama to shift from location to location with ease, and Michael Rasbury's soundscape, which alternates between the bombastic and the gently atmospheric." - TheatreMania
"Kudos also to the extremely clever design team of Sandra Goldmark, R. Lee Kennedy, Kathryn Rohe, and Michael Rasbury; they take the facility from raw and simple at its most ordinary existence to a mythic, profound space that supports the play wonderfully." - New York Theatre