Canadian Stage will present Cruel and Tender, a provocative play by Britain's Martin Crimp. Directed by filmmaker Atom Egoyan, this searing drama is based on an ancient Greek tragedy, but is set against today's war on terror.
The production is a return to the stage for Egoyan, who has not directed a theatre production in Canada in the last 20 years, though he has been honoured for stage direction in Europe and New York in addition to helming an award-winning production of Die Walküre for the Canadian Opera Company in 2006. Renowned actress Arsinée Khanjian (Andromache, The Sweet Hereafter) plays the lead role, marking the first-ever live theatre collaboration between Egoyan and Khanjian.
Cruel and Tender will run in Toronto from January 21 to February 18, 2012 (Opening night: January 26) at the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (27 Front St. E.). Tickets from $22 to $99 are available online at www.canadianstage.com, by phone at 416.368.3110, or in person at the box office.
Written by noted playwright Martin Crimp, who will join the company in Toronto on opening night, Cruel and Tender updates Sophocles' Trachiniae (or The Women of Trachis). Sophocles' tale tells the story of Heracles, Greece's national hero, and what happened when he sent a captured princess home to his pining wife while he was away plundering the neighbouring village of Euboas.
In Crimp's bold and visceral re-telling, Heracles is transformed into a modern military general (Daniel Kash) fighting a war on terror in bloodstained Africa. His pampered wife Amelia (Arsinée Khanjian) waits at home; unaware her world is about to be shattered with the arrival of Laela, a young African woman for whom her husband has committed unspeakable atrocities. Shockingly contemporary, Cruel and Tender is as much about the private wars waged in the domestic sphere as it is about modern politics.
"Cruel and Tender exemplifies playwright Martin Crimp's extraordinary capacity to layer stories and his incomparable rich, poetic language," says Canadian Stage Artistic & General Director, Matthew Jocelyn. "The play deals with international wars and an army general willing to create the worst of genocides to feed his own desires. Who better to bring this story to life and create something clear and deliciously theatrical for the audience than Atom Egoyan?"
"While aspects of the play seem ripped from today's headlines, Cruel and Tender is also a powerful study of contemporary marriage," adds Egoyan. "It looks at the web of relationships – between children, friends, professional associates, even past lovers – that swirl around any marriage, while providing an astute and critical study of contemporary warfare. The richness of the narrative and its characters is a testament to the playwright's sensitivity and intelligence."