In a time of national tragedy, the world changes overnight. On September 12, 2001, Ben Harcourt finds himself in the downtown apartment of his lover, Abby Prescott. Over the course of the night, Ben and Abby explore the choices now available to them in an existence different from the one they knew just the day before. LaBute presents the brutal realities of their relationship and explores whether one can be truly opportunistic in a time of universal selflessness.
THE MERCY SEAT was among the first major theatrical responses to the September 11, 2001 attacks. It premiered at MCC Theater in December 2002 and was both a commercial and critical success, selling out for the length of its run.
This is Profiles Theatre’s seventh Midwest Premiere of Mr. LaBute’s work following their acclaimed productions of IN A DARK DARK HOUSE, THIS IS HOW IT GOES and FAT PIG, among others.
“I feel very lucky indeed to have this delicate drama in the sure hands of Profiles, which has become my theatrical home in Chicago,” says playwright Neil LaBute. “If anyone can find the beating heart of this play, it will be Darrell Cox and Joe Jahraus and the actress who is crazy enough to step into the ring with them. I predict a knockout."
THE MERCY SEAT, the first production of Profiles Theatre’s 21st Season, will be followed by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts’ modern classic, KILLER JOE, January 8-February 28, 2010. Ellen Fairey’s GRACELAND, which celebrated its World Premiere at Profiles in May, continues its run in the theatre space next door to Profiles.
The cast of GRACELAND features Profiles ensemble member Darrell W. Cox along with Cheryl Graeff, most recently seen in Profiles’ long-running hit, GRACELAND.
NEIL LABUTE (playwright) is a writer, director and playwright. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree in dramatic writing from New York University and was the recipient of a literary fellowship to study at the Royal Court Theatre. His films include: IN THE COMPANY OF MEN (New York Critics’ Circle Award for Best First Feature, Filmmakers’ Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival), YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, NURSE BETTY, POSSESSION, THE SHAPE OF THINGS (a film adaptation of his play by the same title), THE WICKER MAN and LAKEVIEW TERRACE. He just finished filming DEATH AT A FUNERAL, a remake of a 2007 British film of the same name, written by and starring Chris Rock. Plays include: BASH: LATTER-DAY PLAYS, written by LaBute and staged in New York in 1999 and London in 2000, both directed by Joe Mantello; THE SHAPE OF THINGS which LaBute wrote and directed for London and New York in 2001; THE DISTANCE FROM HERE, written by LaBute, which ran at the Almeida Theater in London in spring 2002 (directed by David Leveaux) and in New York in spring 2004 (directed by Michael Greif); and THE MERCY SEAT, written and directed by LaBute in New York in fall 2002. In spring 2004, the MCC Theater performed five of his one-act plays, collectively titled AUTOBAHN. MCC staged LaBute’s play FAT PIG, directed by Jo Bonney, in fall 2004. In spring 2005, his play THIS IS HOW IT GOES premiered at New York’s Public Theater, directed by George C. Wolfe. In May of that year, the play debuted at The Donmar Warehouse in London, directed by Moises Kauffman. Also in May 2005, LaBute’s play SOME GIRL(S) premiered on London’s West End, directed by David Grindley. In November 2005, he directed the premiere of his one-man, one-act play WRECKS in Cork, Ireland. In May 2006, SOME GIRL(S) had its New York debut at the Lucille Lortel, staged by MCC Theater and directed by Jo Bonney. In October 2006, LaBute once again directed WRECKS, this time for the New York premiere at the Public Theater. In May of 2007, MCC premiered IN A DARK DARK HOUSE, directed by Carolyn Cantor. REASONS TO BE PRETTY premiered in 2008 in a production by MCC Theater, directed by Terry Kinney. The play later became LaBute’s first ever Broadway production in April 2009. The play was nominated for three 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Play. LaBute is the author of several fictional pieces that have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, and Playboy among others. A collection of his short stories was published by Grove/Atlantic in October 2004.
Joe Jahraus is the director for THE MERCY SEAT. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Profiles Theatre and most recently directed Profiles’ Midwest Premieres of GREAT FALLS by Lee Blessing and THE THUGS by Adam Bock. He also directed the Midwest Premieres of IN A DARK DARK HOUSE and SOME GIRL(S), both by Neil LaBute. Prior to that, he directed the American Premiere of APPLE by Vern Thiessen and the Midwest Premiere of FAT PIG by Neil LaBute, for which he received a Jeff Citation Nomination for Outstanding Director. Other directing credits for Profiles include the award-winning Midwest Premiere of BLACKBIRD by Adam Rapp, BABYLON GARDENS by Timothy Mason, THE WATER ENGINE and SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO by David Mamet, and the award-winning Midwest Premiere of CARNAL KNOWLEDGE by Jules Fieffer, among others.
The designers are Sotirios Livaditis (set), Jessica Harpenau (lights), Ricky Lurie (costumes), and Stephanie Sherline (sound and original music). The assistant director is Darcy McGill and the stage manager is Amanda Reader.
The cast of THE MERCY SEAT features Profiles ensemble member Darrell W. Cox along with Cheryl Graeff, most recently seen in Profiles’ long-running hit, GRACELAND.
Darrell is an ensemble member of Profiles Theatre. He was most recently seen in Profiles’ World premiere of GRACELAND, the Midwest premiere of GREAT FALLS and as Taggart in Profiles’ first full Chicago production of MEN OF TORTUGA. Prior to that, he was seen in the Chicago Premiere of Leigh Fondakowski's THE PEOPLE’S TEMPLE at American Theatre Company as Jim Jones and Stephan Jones. He has been seen at Steppenwolf in the World Premiere of MEN OF TORTUGA (where he originated the role of Taggart), the Midwest Premiere of ORANGE FLOWER WATER (which traveled to the Galway Arts Festival), and the World Premiere of WENDALL GREENE. Darrell has also appeared at the Goodman in THE SHAWL and HOME as part of the David Mamet Festival and the World Premiere of MARTIN FUREY’S SHOT at TimeLine Theatre, among others. He has received three Jeff Awards for Principal Actor for his performances in Profiles’ productions of BLACKBIRD, SOME VOICES and EYE OF GOD. In addition, he has received two After Dark Awards for Outstanding Performance for his work in Profiles’ POPCORN and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE. Other recent performances at Profiles include IN A DARK DARK HOUSE, APPLE, FAT PIG and THE GLORY OF LIVING.
CHERYL GRAEFF was most recently seen in the World premiere of GRACELAND at Profiles Theatre and LOVE PERSON at Victory Gardens. She is an ensemble member with American Blues Theater Company where she has appeared in THE PEOPLE’S TEMPLE, HALF OF PLENTY and SPEECH AND DEBATE. Cheryl has worked at many Regional and Chicago theatres including Court Theatre, Missouri Repertory, Piven Theater, Mary-Archie, Folio Theatre, Nebraska Repertory, Trap Door, Kansas City Repertory, Oregon Stage Company, Spokane Interplayers, Idaho Theater for Youth, Oregon Stage Company, Milwaukee Repertory, Madison Repertory, Chicago Dramatists, Public Trust, Strawdog, Famous Door, New American Theatre Company, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company. She has also performed at the Kennedy Center and toured throughout the U.K. She has also appeared in the films ALLEYBALL, WHIRLYBIRD, and STRANGER THAN FICTION.
“Highly Recommended! THE MERCY SEAT is a raw play, an intense play, a very well-written play and it's directed here by Joe Jahraus with notable smarts. No living American dramatist writes fights better than Neil LaBute. Darrell W. Cox is here up against Cheryl Graeff, a no-nonsense, full-tilt Chicago actress with the power dynamic teetering quite deliciously on the counterintuitive edge!”
-Chris Jones, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“Highly Recommended! In this taut and affecting Chicago Premiere, Neil LaBute’s two-character drama, set on the morning of September 12, manages to carve a stark examination of a relationship from the edifice of tragedy. Joe Jahraus’ direction peels back the layers of the tightly wound affair!”
-Megan Powell, TIMEOUT CHICAGO
“Neil LaBute’s sharp, edgy dialogue comes alive on the Profiles stage. Cheryl Graeff delivers a tremendous performance of terrific intensity as Abby. In a distinguished career in Chicago theater, Graeff has never disappointed, but this is as good as she’s ever been. Darrell W. Cox is a master at portraying the superficially genial Ben!”
-Dan Zeff, COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
“Engrossing, suspenseful and profound. LaBute reveals the kind of volatile moral dilemma that would make David Mamet proud. Director Joe Jahraus maintains exacting focus, Darrell W. Cox is mesmerizing as Ben and Cheryl Graeff takes the character of Abby to heart-breaking heights!”
-Justin Hayford, CHICAGO READER
“Highly Recommended! THE MERCY SEAT is an unsettling drama that needs to be seen. Under Joe Jahraus’ tightly paced direction, LaBute’s brilliant dialogue is deeply enriched by the subtle power of both Darrell W. Cox and Cheryl Graeff’s performances. Profiles Theatre once again proves that they are a Chicago storefront gem!”
-Tom Williams, CHICAGOCRITIC.COM
"Jahraus and the cast deserve special note for making LaBute's lovers face some uneasy questions as the world is falling apart outside their apartment window. The Profiles Theatre production of THE MERCY SEAT is wonderful and a must see!"
-Trish Vignola, BROADWAYWORLD.COM
"Highly Recommended! Neil LaBute’s THE MERCY SEAT is a thought-provoking Midwest Premiere at Profiles Theatre that will chill you. It’s a story that gets into a relationship with great depth and features a powerful performance by Cheryl Graeff!
-Al Bresloff, STEADSTYLE CHICAGO
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