Pioneer Theatre Company Presents World Premiere of “/i/”

Playwright Jeff Talbott (center) and the cast of /i/.

Pioneer Theatre Press Room

Playwright Jeff Talbott (center) and the cast of /i/.

By Sara Wilcox

Opening on Friday, the Pioneer Theatre Company will be presenting the world premiere of “i” by Jeff Talbott. The play will run from Feb. 16 to March 3.

“Having the opportunity to produce the World Premiere of a new play is one of the most exciting things we do at Pioneer Theatre,” said PTC Artistic Director Karen Azenberg. “By supporting not only the development of new American plays but giving those plays a full production, we are part of the future of theater in America. It is a tremendous honor, a tremendous challenge, and a responsibility we take very seriously.”

Set in present day, “i” is a mysterious love story that follows the life of Sarah Cooper who has had a rough patch. She has a new doctor and meets a nice guy, Jake Bellamy. Soon secrets abound that Sarah is only beginning to discover.

The cast is comprised of Colleen Baum, Todd Gearhart, Kathleen McElfresh and Nafeesa Monroe, all of whom are members of the Actors’ Equity Association.

Kathleen McElfresh will make her PTC premiere as the lead role Sarah Cooper. She has appeared on Broadway in “Present Laughter” as well as off-Broadway in productions such as “Taking Care of Baby,” “Greek Holiday,” “The Frugal Repast” and “Jester’s Dead.” She has also performed in regionals theaters such as Studio Theatre, Hartford Stage and the Old Globe, as well as performing on television and in film.

Returning to PTC after playing C.K. Dexter Haven in the 2013 production of “The Philadelphia Story” is Todd Gearhart, who will be playing Jake Bellamy. Gearhart has also performed on Broadway in “Bye, Bye Birdie” as well as other various New York theaters such Lincoln Center Theater, Cherry Lane and Manhattan Theatre Club. Todd also has experience working regionally and in both television and film.

Colleen Baum, playing Virginia Cooper, is a familiar face at PTC. She has performed in several PTC productions including “Oliver!,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Our Town,” “The Heiress,” “Lost in Yonkers” and “You Can’t Take It With You.” Baum has also worked with Salt Lake companies such as The Sting & Honey Company, Caine Lyric Repertory Company, Plan-B Theatre Company and Salt Lake Acting Company.   

Nafeesa Monroe, making her PTC debut, will play Beth Denton and others. She has appeared in several productions around the country including “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Wedding Gift,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “Julius Caesar,” “Hamlet,” “Mother Courage” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Nafeesa is also a poet who has appeared in HBO’s “Def Poetry.”

Jeff Talbott is the playwright of this production. He has previously worked with PTC as both an actor and playwright. The “i” script was read last season, and another one of his plays, “A Public Education,” was read as part of the 2013-14 Play-by-Play reading. He has appeared on stage in productions of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “The Odd Couple” and “Doubt.” In his time as a playwright, his plays have been featured off Broadway at MCC Theater and TACT, as well as being workshopped with theaters across the country. In addition to writing plays, Talbott also writes musicals with composer Will Van Dyke. The two are currently working on a musical titled “The Circle,” commissioned by Grove Entertainment and Barbara Whitman Productions.

Karen Azenberg, who has served as the artistic director for PTC for six years, will be directing. She opened the 2017-18 season by directing the regional premiere of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” She also directed the productions of “The Last Ship,” “Oliver!,” “Women in Jeopardy!” and “Chess” last season. Azenberg is originally from New York. Her work there includes “Lyrics and Lyricists” (92nd St. Y), “Blocks” (a collaboration with Jonathan Larson), “Prom Queens Unchained” as well as choreography for Richard Greenberg’s “The Dazzle” (Roundabout).

Paul Tate Depoo III will return as scenic designer and multiple Tony Award and Drama Desk nominee Gregory Gale will be designing costumes. Jax Messenger is the productions light designer and Will Van Dyke will compose original music for this production. PTC Resident hair and Makeup Designer Amanda French will do hair and makeup design and sound design is conducted by Resident Sound Designer Kate Wrecker.

Show Times for “i” will be Mondays-Thursdays at 7:00 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Saturday matinees at 2 pm at Pioneer Theatre. Ticket prices range from $25-$44 in advance, with an extra $5 when purchased the day of the show. Kids K-12 can purchase tickets at half price on Mondays and Tuesdays. Tickets can be purchased here or at the PTC Box Office.

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