Trenton-based theater company to open season with work by Princeton playwright E.M. Lewis

Passage Theatre Company will begin its 2013-2014 season with True Story by E.M. Lewis.

The show will be on the Mill Hill Playhouse stage Nov. 7–24, directed by Damon Bonetti.

Billed as a “smart, edge-of-your-seat thriller,” the play by Princeton’s E.M. Lewis concerns a down-at-heel mystery writer who challenges our perceptions of the truth when he interviews an acquitted murderer.

Hal Walker is hired to ghostwrite the “story of the century”: the autobiography of acquitted murderer Donnie Lawrence. But, when Hal goes to Donnie’s house to begin interviews, he finds himself under scrutiny and the story spinning out of control. This brilliantly theatrical tease toys with your perceptions and asks, “What is truth…and whose ‘truth’ is really true?”

Playwright Lewis is no stranger to Passage Theatre, having joined the Passage Play Lab when she was the 2010-2011 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. She received a 2012 Fellowship in Playwriting from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts and both the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for Song of Extinction and the Primus Prize for Heads from the American Theater Critics Association.

True Story was initially developed during the Passage Play Lab retreat in 2011 and has subsequently been developed at the Arkansas New Play Festival and PlayFest Santa Barbara.

“I find myself returning again and again to certain themes in my work,” Lewis said. “True Story can be described as a murder mystery of sorts … but I wouldn’t say that ‘whodunit’ is the central issue. The play is preoccupied with the same question that my plays Heads, and Infinite Black Suitcase, Song of Extinction, and The Gun Show are asking: How do we go on?”

In his Passage directorial debut is Damon Bonetti, who was last seen on stage in Passage’s production of Blood: A Comedy. True Story also features Barrymore Award-winning actor Dan Hodge in the role of Hal Walker.

Also featured in the cast are Judith Lightfoot Clarke, Joe Guzmán, John Jezior (last seen in Passage’s production of Love and Communication) and recent Rider University grad Alex Boyle.

Shows on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays will be at 8 p.m., and Sunday shows at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30 ($35 on Saturdays).

Passage Theatre performs in the historic Mill Hill Playhouse, a 100-seat theater in the heart of downtown Trenton adjacent to the Mill Hill district. Parking is available on the street and in the Artworks parking lot.

Passage Season Memberships are available by calling (609) 392-0766, or online at passagetheatre.org.

Tickets can also be purchased at the Passage Theatre Office, 219 E. Hanover St. in Trenton, Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., or at the box office, one hour before each performance at the playhouse.

The rest of the Passage Theatre 2013-14 season is also set.

In December, Passage will bring to the stage The Screwtape Letters adapted from the book by C.S. Lewis and performed by another Barrymore Award-winner, Anthony Lawton. In a series of dictated letters, Screwtape, an undersecretary in Hell’s sprawling bureaucracy, offers diabolical advice on the best ways to lead a mortal into self-delusion, vice and despair.

Shows will be Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6–7 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m. Tickets $25.

In February Passage is set to bring Profiles, three years in the making, to the stage. The follow-up to 2010’s Trenton Lights is a new play created through interviews conducted by artistic director June Ballinger and resident playwright and associate artistic director David Lee White.

This time, the subject is race, and the company has crafted this special presentation that examines one of America’s most controversial topics through the intelligent, and occasionally humorous, stories that Trenton’s community has in abundance.

Each performance will conclude with a conversation involving community activists, scholars, artists, social and environmental justice experts, youth and the audience.

The collaboration between Passage artists and community members runs for two weeks. Check in periodically at our website to see information on speakers. Profiles runs February 13–23; Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets: $25.

In May, William Mastrosimone will return to Passage with Tamer of Horses, directed by Adam Immerwahr. In it Hector, a streetwise troublemaker and runaway from a Trenton juvenile detention center, finds shelter in a barn owned by Ty and Georgiane Fletcher, a black couple living on a farm in rural New Jersey. Ty, a former classics teacher, offers sanctuary on one condition: Hector must learn to read The Iliad.

Words from Homer’s epic tale take their place next to urban rap lyrics as the two match wits in a class struggle for survival.

Winner of the NAACP Award for Best Play of 1987, this production has been revised by the playwright since its premiere in 1986.

Tamer of Horses is expected to run from May 15 through June 1. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets: $30-35.

Rounding out the season is the Passage Playwrights Lab, an incubator for new work, which will be preparing never before seen work from Lab writers paired with samplings from area restaurants and kitchens.

The Play Lab Prix Fixe mini festival will showcase the work of three local writers over three days. June 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. and June 15 at 2 p.m. The price for dinner or brunch and a chance to see the plays is $20.