PlayMakers presents Obie-winner ‘And God Created Great Whales’

Rinde Eckert and Nora Cole in “And God Created Great Whales” (photo by Caleb Wertenbaker).

PlayMakers Repertory Company at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill presents actor-playwright-composer Rinde Eckert’s award-winning “And God Created Great Whales” Jan. 9-13.

“And God Created Great Whales” is a haunting musical adventure into the psyche of a Acomposer trying to create an opera based on the classic novel, “Moby Dick.” Desperately fighting a degenerative disease eating away at his mind, the artist must rely on a tape recorder hung around his neck and a muse born of his imagination to instruct him on his work each day.

The production is part of the theater’s innovative PRC2 second-stage series and will be performed by original cast members Eckert and Nora Cole.

“Grammy Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Rinde Eckert displays his full creative force in this frenzied, funny and moving play,” said Joseph Haj, PlayMakers’ producing artistic director.

Called “dazzling” by the Los Angeles Times, the play garnered an Obie Award for Best Performance and a Drama Desk Award nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience. The New Yorker review said, “Every element of Eckert’s play is masterly — his performance … poignant, his music varied and lovely, his dancing divine, his musings profound.”

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets are available as part of the theater’s 2012-2013 season subscription packages. Individual tickets are $25-$40. For more information, call the PlayMakers box office at (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit PRC² shows are presented in the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.

Eckert’s work has been produced off-Broadway and at major venues and festivals throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Off-Broadway shows include “Orpheus X” (2007 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama), “Horizon” (Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk Award nominations), “An Idiot Divine” and “Romeo Sierra Tango.” Regional theater credits include “Ravenshead” and “Highway Ulysses” (Eliot Norton Award).

Earlier this year, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation named Eckert as one of 21 inaugural Doris Duke Artists. His other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Marc Blitzstein Award and the Alpert Award in the Arts for Theatre.

Cole plays the Muse/Olivia Walsh. She also originated the role of The Bride in Eckert’s “Highway Ulysses.” Other credits include “Caroline or Change” (Royal National Theatre), “Jelly’s Last Jam” (Broadway opposite Gregory Hines/national tour opposite Maurice Hines), “On the Town” (Broadway), “Your Arms Too Short to Box With God” (Broadway, national and European tours) and “When Hell Freezes Over, I’ll Skate” (Kennedy Center).

David Schweizer has directed “Great Whales” in all its incarnations since its premiere. His collaboration with Eckert also includes “Horizon” (off-Broadway and on tour). He has directed new theater, performance and opera for 40 years, both nationally and internationally, including work for solo artists such as Ann Magnuson and world premieres for many playwrights.

This is the sixth season for PlayMakers’ PRC2 series, where each presentation combines an intriguing, topical production coupled with engaging post-show discussions with the creative artists and expert panelists. Theseries concludes with “Spring Training,” a world premiere specially commissioned by PlayMakers and Carolina Performing Arts, written and performed by acclaimed musical/spoken word ensemble Universes (April 24-28).

PlayMakers’ main-stage season also continues with Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” performed in rotating repertory with 2012 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner “Clybourne Park” (Jan. 26-March 3), and the  musical “Cabaret” (April 3-21). Single tickets and season subscription packages are available.

PlayMakers is the professional theater in residence in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. The Drama League of New York has named PlayMakers one of the best regional theaters in America, and The Independent Weekly calls PlayMakers the best live theater company in the Triangle.

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