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Battle of Sexes and Class Warfare Rage in "Skybox"


If "Adam's Rib" and "Moneyball" mated and begat a play, it might be "Skybox," a comedy of class warfare and the battle of the sexes that is set in the luxury box of a major league baseball park. The play, written by Walt Stepp and directed by Lissa Moira, is the successor to their collaboration on "Siren's Heart: Norma Jean and Marilyn in Purgatory," a play by Stepp which started at Theater for the New City and is now running Off-Broadway at the Actors Temple Theatre. Theater for the New City will present "Skybox" November 15 to December 2 in its Cino Theater.

In the play, a one-percenter named Richard Gunn, owner of a struggling Major League Baseball team, is caught canoodling with a young woman in the team's skybox by the Channel 8 Skycam. Being wealthy and influential, he's able to contain the news break, but not the accident that the young woman--his smart talking personal assistant, Kelly--has lost her diaphragm case among the cushions of the couch in the skybox. Her search for the item activates the suspicions of Richard's trophy wife, Rachel. The loyal stadium facilities manager stands ready to take the fall for his boss, but Rachel incites a confrontation that could bring down the whole ball club. The play lashes out wittily at the cheekyness of our moneyed class and the double standard that exists for men and women regarding adultery. It is filled with snappy repartee and role reversals.

L to R; front: Chelsey Clime, Bill Tatum; back: Steve Brunstein, Maisha Azadi, Kenny Steven Fuentes, Rachel Daye Adams. Directed by Lissa Moira. Photo by Adele Bossard.

It's not giving too much away to say that Richard is hoisted with his own petard by two women who are as predatory as he is. Kelly is a comely little blackmailer. However, despite the difference in age and attitudes, there is a genuine friendship and affection between the billionaire and his mistress that richly complicates the usual farce equation. Rachel has been forced into her defensive situation through her husband's poor treatment. The trophy wife, sensing the rise of the next trophy wife, defends her ground. The observations of two of the stadium staff, an Hispanic man and a Black woman, cast the hypocrisy of the owner into witty sharp relief. When the rich couple are reconciled at the end of the play, it is with the insincere promises of the wealthy.

Walt Stepp (playwright) is author of "Siren's Heart: Norma Jean and Marilyn in Purgatory" (2011), which began at Theatre for the New City and is currently playing at the Actors Temple Theatre on W. 47th St. It imagines Norma Jean Mortensen in Purgatory as a happier and healthier woman than she was in real life, wondering who was the woman was who played Marilyn Monroe. Stepp is also author of "Why We Shot Jack" (2006), which tells the story of the JFK assassination from the view of congressional conspirators; "View From K-Street Steakhouse" (2007), about the weird psychology of Washington lobbyists; "Mark Twain's Blues: a play with Twainsongs" (2008), which imagines the author communing with Huck and Jim; "Only Love Will Do (2009), a gay/straight romantic comedy; and "Lotte Latina and the Dominos - A Watergate Musical," which conjoins the Fanne Foxe-Wilbur Mills Affair with the Watergate Trials. Stepp was raised on the Navajo Reservation in northern New Mexico and Arizona. He has taught English at Nassau Community College for the last thirty years or so. Beside TNC, his plays have been produced by Altered Stages and Broadway Tomorrow.

Richard Gunn (Bill Tatum) is a struggling baseball team owner torn between his lovely mistress (Chelsey Clime) and his trophy wife Rachel (Rachel Daye Adams) in "Skybox." Photo by Jonathan Slaff

Lissa Moira (Director and Dramaturg) is a playwright, screenwriter, director, artist and poet. She is two-time Jerome Foundation grantee and OOBR Award-winning actress. She directed and was dramaturg of Walt Stepp's "Siren's Heart, Norma Jean and Marilyn in Purgatory," which enjoyed a seven-week run at TNC in 2011 and is now in its fourth month Off-Broadway at the Actors Temple starring Louisa Bradshaw. Her play, "Time It Is" (1998), made the final ten in the Chesterfield Paramount screenwriting competition (from over 5,000 submissions worldwide). She co-wrote "Dead Canaries" (2002), a feature film with Charles Durning, Dan Lauria, D. Wallace-Stone and Joe Higgins. Her direction of "Cocaine Dreams" at the Kraine in 2002 was described by the NY Post (Chip Deffaa) as "inspired." At TNC, she spearheaded "The Crysalis," a play development project that included over 40 directors, writers and actors.

She directed her play, "Before God Was Invented," which received a nomination for a Susan Brownell-Smith Award in 2007, and its musical adptation at TNC in 2010. She has also directed a series of plays she co-wrote with Richard West. These include the long running hits "Sexual Psychobabble" (1994-1996) and "The Best Sex of the XX Century Sale" (1996-1998), both of which ran for 18 months. Their Dada Noir musical comedy, "Who Murdered Love" (TNC, 2008) was also produced by the 2012 Fringe NYC. Moira says, "I would like to thank Crystal Field for her continuing faith in me, both as a writer and director, and for allowing me to have the opportunity both to direct and to present my own new works. Walt Stepp's play, 'Only Love Will Do,' started in The Chrysalis at TNC, and this brought him to TNC. So the theater has been an indispensable launching pad for both of us."

The team owner is played by Bill Tatum, who is known to TV audiences as Arthur Clayborne on "As The World Turns." His recent plays include "Court-Martial At Fort Devens" by Jeffrey Sweet at the CastilloTheatre and "Mark Twain's Blues," The Chosen Wife" and "The View From K Street Steak" at The DRII and Altered Stages. He is a board member of the WorkShop Theater Company, where he appears frequently in member-written plays. His other TV appearances include "Law & Order," "The Office Party" and "On The Water."

The wife is played by Rachel Daye Adams and the assistant/mistress is played by Chelsey Clime. The facilities manager is played by Steve Brustein. The class-conscious stadium staffers are played by Kenny Steven Fuentes and Maisha Azadi.

Set design is by Mark Marcante. Lighting and Sound Design are by William Giraldo. Costume Design is by Litza Colon. Voice overs of the Baseball Announcer are by Zen Mansley.

November 15 to December 2, 2012
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street)
Presented by Theater for the New City in association with Cinna Productions
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM, plus Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 7:00 PM
$15 general admission
Box office (212) 254-1109,
Runs :90

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