Beginning April 1, the Zadie Smith’s The Wife of Willesden begins its New York premiere at Off-Broadway’s Brooklyn Academy of Music. The two-week run in the Harvey Theater will play through April 16 under the direction of Indhu Rubasingham.
Clare Perkins will star as the titular Wife of Willesden, Alvita, the Wife of Willesden. Joining Perkins in the cast will be Marcus Adolphy as Winston/Mandela/Black Jesus, George Eggay as Pastor/Eldridge, Andrew Frame as Ian/Socrates/Bartosz, Troy Glasgow as Darren/Young Maroon, Claudia Grant as Polly/Sophie, Nikita Johal as Asma/Kelly, Scott Miller as Ryan/Colin, Jessica Murrain as Author/Zaire/Queen Nanny, and Ellen Thomas as Aunty P/Old Wife. Sophie Cartman serves as understudy for Alvita and Aunty P/Old Wife. All actors are reprising their roles from the recent American Repertory Theater run.
Smith’s debut play follows Alvita, a Jamaican-born British woman and local legend who takes over a North West London pub where she reigns. In her mid-50s, Alvita has much life experience—including five marriages, children, and more. Smith has put a modern translation spin on Chaucer's work, showcasing wit, delving frankly into sexuality, and exploring the human talent for telling elaborate stories. The Wife of Willesden is Smith's adaptation of Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath," a story from the 14th century collection The Canterbury Tales.
“Chaucer could not have imagined the way we have re-embodied his lines,” said Smith in a statement. “Yet I felt the presence in the rehearsal room, of Chaucer’s humor and bawdiness, his philosophical depth and intellectual perversity. All transformed by the process of passing through these various flesh-and-blood actors, with their human voices and human gestures, with which they are able to perform the miracle of turning text into experience, words into action, ideas into something like ‘life.’”
The production features design by four-time Olivier nominee Robert Jones, lighting design by Guy Hoare, composition and sound design by Drama Desk winners Ben and Max Ringham, movement direction by Imogen Knight, fight direction by Kev McCurdy, voice and dialect coaching by Hazel Holder, and wigs, hair and make-up by Campbell Young Associates. Casting is by Julia Horan.
Having had two London runs, the show currently plays at American Repertory Theatre at the Loeb Drama Center in Massachusetts through March 18.
Currently playing at BAM is the first major New York revival of Lorraine Hansberry's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window starring Golden Globe winners Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan.