Penguin Theatre Presents FALL RIVER

Lizzie Borden took an axe … or did she? 125 years later, the Crime of the Century still fascinates

Penguin Rep Theatre presents the world premiere of Frederick Stroppel’s Fall River, a new play about Lizzie Borden, directed by Joe Brancato, beginning October 13 in Stony Point, NY

Penguin Rep Theatre, the award-winning professional Equity theatre under the leadership of founding artistic director Joe Brancato and executive director Andrew M. Horn, presents the world premiere of Fall River, a new play by Frederick Stroppel, directed by Mr. Brancato, beginning Friday, October 13.

Before O.J. Simpson, there was Lizzie Borden. Whether, as the children’s rhyme goes, she really took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks, then turned and gave her father 41, we’ll never know for sure, but 125 years ago it was The Crime of the Century.

Was she a Sunday School teacher unfairly blamed for her parents’ deaths, or did she get away with murder?

“Friday the thirteenth is Lizzie’s lucky day,” says Mr. Brancato, “that’s when she finally gets to come clean about what really happened on that steamy day a century ago.”

“Lizzie and her infamous axe continue to fascinate us,” he explains, “and have inspired everything from podcasts to TV movies, a mini-series, and even an opera.” (Upcoming is a big-screen thriller starring Chloe Sevigny as Lizzie and Kristen Stewart as her maid).

And in this imaginative retelling of Lizzie’s life, before and after the murders, says Mr. Horn, “the playwright offers a fascinating and unvarnished look at what it meant to be a woman and bound by convention in the late 19th century, and, in many ways, what it means today.”

The limited engagement of Fall River runs through Sunday, November 5 at Penguin Rep Theatre in historic Stony Point (Rockland County), New York. Official opening is Sunday, October 15 at 2:00 p.m.

Sofia Jean Gomez (Signature: Angels in America: Parts 1 & 2; World Stages: Would You Still, directed by Kathleen Turner) and Oliver Wadsworth (Public Theatre: Well; National tour: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) star.

The production has scenic design by Brian Prather, costume design by Lux Haac, lighting design by Reza Behjat, sound design by William Neal, with casting by Stephanie Klapper.

Performance days and times are: Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m., with matinees on Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

There is also a special weekday matinee on Friday, October 13 at 2:00 p.m.

Penguin’s intimate, 108-seat theatre, which is located at 7 Crickettown Road, is converted from an 1880’s hay barn, and offers air-conditioning and heating, wheelchair accessible entrance, rest rooms and seating, and plenty of free parking.

Tickets to Fall River are priced at $44 (including facility fee and service charge). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more and young people (30 and under).

On Sunday, October 15, the audience is invited to join the cast and crew for cake and coffee after the performance.

On Friday, October 20, there will be a discussion among the actors and audience following the show.

Before the 4:00 p.m. show on Saturday, October 21, there will be a complimentary tasting catered by TFS Burger Works of West Haverstraw.

Fall River is the fourth and final production in Penguin’s acclaimed 40th anniversary season, which included the world premiere of Lindsay Joelle’s Trayf, Lee Blessing’s Cobb, Allan Knee’s romantic comedy Syncopation, and the premiere presentation at SUNY Rockland Community College of Shistory Happens!, award-winning comedian Robert Wuhl’s latest show.

Penguin Rep is also presenting Mr. Stroppel’s Small World, a comedy about the creation of Disney’s classic movie Fantasia, at 59e59 Street Theatres in New York City through October 7, 2017.


SOFIA JEAN GOMEZ (Lizzie Borden) starred Off Broadway in the Signature Theatre Company’s Lucille Lortel Award-winning revival of Angels in America: Parts 1 & 2, and in Would You Still, directed by Kathleen Turner at New World Stages. Regionally, she has appeared at Yale Repertory Theatre, Denver Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, McCarter Theatre Center, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Her performance in The Tempest at Shakespeare Theatre of D.C. was named “best performance of 2014” by DC Metro, and she has also been nominated for Helen Hayes, Outer Critic Circle Bay Area and Denver Post Awards for her work.

OLIVER WADSWORTH (Everyone else)’s Off Broadway credits include Endpapers at Variety Arts and Well at The Public Theatre. He was seen in the national tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and in regional theatres across the country including the Old Globe, Long Wharf Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Denver Center Theatre, and Syracuse Stage. He is the recipient of AriZoni Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for his performances in, respectively, Angels in America: Parts 1 & 2 and Shipwrecked! at Arizona Theatre Phoenix, and his performance in Fully Committed at Capital Rep was named best performance by Metroland.

FREDERICK STROPPEL (Author)’s Small World was presented at Penguin Rep Theatre in 2015 and is now completing an acclaimed run at 59e59 Street Theatres in New York City. Previous NY productions of his theater work include the romantic comedy Fortune’s Fools, produced Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater, and the musical Tales From The Manhattan Woods, adapted from Die Fledermaus, staged by Opera NY at the Wings Theatre. Other plays include Actor!, The Christmas Spirit, A Good Man, and The Hunter’s Moon. His evening of one-acts Senior Moments will have a production next season at the distinguished Moscow Arts Theatre.

JOE BRANCATO (Artistic Director/Director) was cited by The New York Times as “one of America’s most insightful directors.” His Off Broadway credits include the critically acclaimed, sold-out production of Michael McKeever’s Daniel’s Husband, which transferred from Penguin to Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theatre; Erasmus Fenn’s Drop Dead Perfect at Theatre at St. Clements; The Devil’s Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith (Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Off Bway Alliance & Audelco Award nominee), which he also staged at dozens of theatres across the country and in Canada; Tom Dudzick’s Miracle on South Division Street; Fall to Earth and Freed (Audelco Award nominee); Tryst (Outer Critics nomination for Best Play) at the Promenade and at Irish Rep; Cobb (Drama Desk winner) produced by Kevin Spacey and Melting Pot in NYC and LA; From Door To Door at the Westside Theatre; One Shot, One Kill at Primary Stages; Two and a Half Jews; My Italy Story; Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Matter of Minutes; at Naked Angels, Escape from Happiness (starring Marsha Mason), The Big Swing (starring Madeline Kahn, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Marisa Tomei)

and Dr. Valentine’s Waltz (starring John Turturro, Laura Linney, Jane Alexander); Hold the Wedding, produced by Joseph Papp.


Joe Brancato was a high school English and drama teacher in 1977 when he peered into an abandoned 1880’s hay barn in Stony Point, New York, and visualized his future: a theatre of his own.

40 years later, Penguin Rep – the theatre Brancato started with Francine Newman-McCarthy and runs with executive director Andrew M. Horn -- has grown from a summer theatre to become one of the Hudson Valley’s most influential nonprofit cultural institutions, reaching tens of thousands of theatergoers each year at its home, in New York City and beyond – with its work moving to Off Broadway and to stages across the country and around the world.

And come this May the Bronx-born Brancato began his fifth decade at Penguin, a not-for-profit professional Equity theatre, where he is widely believed to be among the longest-serving founding artistic directors in the U.S. today!

Since its founding in 1977, Penguin has presented more than 150 productions – over 100 directed by Brancato himself -- for more than 400,000 people from the lower Hudson Valley and beyond. And Mr. Brancato has brought together accomplished professional actors – David Canary, Michael Cullen, Tim De Kay, Gregg Edelman, Michael Esper, Barbara Feldon, Tovah Feldshuh, Beth Fowler, Deborah Hedwall, Celeste Holm,, Richard Kline, Andrew McCarthy, Lizbeth Mackay, Michele Pawk, and Karen Ziemba, among others – to star in new and noteworthy plays by such playwrights as Lee Blessing, Ronald Harwood, Allan Knee, Arthur Laurents, Warren Leight, Jon Marans, William Mastrosimone, Lainie Robertson, James Sherman and Elizabeth Swados.

As The Journal News wrote in 1982: “Somebody forgot to tell artistic director Joe Brancato that he’s crazy to use a little barn plunked down in the Rockland County suburbs to experiment with unusual and challenging plays… I hope everybody keeps forgetting to tell him. The region is more the richer for it.”

“Guided by the skilled hand of Penguin’s artistic director, Joe Brancato, the splendid performers get first-rate support, as always at Penguin, by an excellent design team” (The New York Times).

“Penguin Rep is a place where theatergoers can experience magic time after time” (Lohud.com).

As it celebrates its fortieth season, Penguin Rep Theatre, dubbed “the gutsiest little theatre” by The New York Times, continues to present a cultural experience that is unique in the region: professional productions of new plays at affordable prices.

Penguin Rep Theatre’s 2017 season is sponsored by Active International and Orange and Rockland Utilities. The season is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Penguin Rep also gratefully acknowledges the support of the County of Rockland, the Town of Stony Point, The Shubert Foundation, Cory and Bob Donnalley Charitable Foundation, The Marta Heflin Foundation, and generous donations from Joseph Grosso, Barry and Helene Lewis, Chase Mishkin and Morton Wolkowitz.

To order tickets or for further information, visit Penguin Rep’s website at www.penguinrep.org or call 845-786-2873.




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