Burning Coal Will Present the American Premiere of “The Shape of the Table” by David Edgar

The Burning Coal cast for David Edgar’s "The Shape of the Table" (photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)
The Burning Coal cast for David Edgar’s "The Shape of the Table" (photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)
The Burning Coal cast for David Edgar’s "The Shape of the  Table" (photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)
The Burning Coal cast for David Edgar’s "The Shape of the Table" (photo by Right Image Photography, Inc.)

Burning Coal Theatre Company will present the American premiere of The Shape of the Table, British dramatist David Edgar’s powerful 1990 drama about fictional Eastern European country’s transition Communist rule to a Western-style democracy, on April 7-10, 14-17, and 21-24 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, near the Historic Oakwood Section of downtown Raleigh, NC. Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis will direct the show.

Burning Coal’s cast for The Shape of the Table includes Tony Award®-winning actor Nick Berg Barnes as Communist Party chairman Josef Lutz; Raleigh-based actor James Anderson as jailed dissident Pavel Prus; New York actor Peter Tedeschi as the country’s Prime Minister; Durham’s John Allore as Minister of Communications Petr Vladislav; and Raleigh’s John Honeycutt as Labor Union Chairman Jan Milev. Raleigh’s Julie Oliver plays Vera Rousova, and Durham’s Tom McCleister portrays ousted party chair Victor Spassov. Also in the cast are Raleigh’s Tamara Kraus as Monica Freie, PJ Maske as Victoria Brodskaya, David McSweeney as Jan Matkovic, and Stephen LeTrent as student leader Andre Zietek, plus Raleigh’s Samantha Corey and Fred Corlett.

“When I first read Pentecost [1994],” recalls Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis, “I became intrigued by it and then read, quickly, the other two plays [in Edgar’s ‘Iron Curtain Trilogy’: The Shape of the Table, which debuted in 1990, and The Prisoner’s Dilemma, which premiered in 2001]. [The Shape of the Table] struck me as the funniest of the three, and the most accessible, so I’ve been itching to get it onto the stage for awhile, [because] the characters are so clearly drawn, the stakes so high, the level of argument so well set forth.”

Burning Coal Theatre Company performed Pentecost during its 1997-98 season and again during its 2006-07 season, and the small Raleigh-based professional theater staged The Prisoner’s Dilemma during its 2008-09 season.

“For some inexplicable reason,” Jerry Davis adds, “[The Shape of the Table] has never been done in the U.S. Our production marks the American premiere.”

He adds, [The Shape of the Table] is a challenge to a director, I think, because it is a play about big ideas. Young people, older people, all types of people in a room together literally fighting for their lives — but fighting with arguments, with words, with ideas. That excites me. I just love listening to them go at it!”

Nick Berg Barnes in the Burning Coal Theatre Company production of David Edgar’s The Shape of the Table (photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)

When the curtain rises, Davis says, “It is November 1989, and a Communist country suddenly sees its people rise up in revolt. The powerful government and Communist Party leaders huddle in their palace, trying to figure out what the people want, how much of it to offer them, and how to keep their heads attached to their necks!”

In addition to director Jerry Davis, the Burning Coal Theatre Company creative team for The Shape of the Table includes assistant director Jackson Bloom, musical director Jonathan Fitts, set designer Robert John Andrusko, lighting designer Matthew Adelson, costume designer Kelly Farrow, properties manager Jan Doub Morgan, videographer Nick Karner, sound designer Sharath Patel, and stage manager Kylie McCormick. The show also features original music by Jonathan Fitts, with lyrics by David Edgar.

Jerry Davis says The Shape of the Table is set in a “white room, a grand ballroom of a decrepit, Czarist era palace now being used as headquarters for the government of a small, soviet satellite country in Eastern Europe.” The show’s lighting is “stark,” and its costumes are “realistic, with flourishes,” Davis says.

He adds, “This is the American premiere of a play written 21 years ago by one of the greatest living British dramatists. It is about precisely the same things that we are seeing play out in North Africa and the Middle East today. It is about a ‘rolling revolution’ — the next phase of this happens to be happening as the play is being produced.”

SECOND OPINION: April 6th Durham, NC Independent Weekly preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/david-edgar-returns-to-burning-coal-with-the-american-premiere-of-an-early-play/Content?oid=2295771.

Burning Coal Theatre Company presents THE SHAPE OF THE TABLE the American premiere of a play by David Edgar, at 7:30 p.m. April 7-9, 3 p.m. April 10, 7:30 p.m. April 14-16 and 21-23, and 2 p.m. April 17 and 24 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

TICKETS: $10 Thursdays and $20 Friday-Sunday ($15 students, seniors 65+, and active-duty military personnel), except April 10th pay-what-you-can performance, $5 Student Rush Tickets, and $12 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919/834-4001 or https://www.etix.com/.

SHOW/SEASON: http://www.burningcoal.org/season.html.

PRESENTER: http://www.burningcoal.org/.

VENUE/DIRECTIONS: http://www.burningcoal.org/third/murphey.html.

NOTE 1: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. April 10th performance.

NOTE 2: At 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 16th, associate professor Dr. Jehanne M. Gheith of Duke University’s Slavic and Eurasian Studies Department will speak about her interviews with Gulag survivors as part of Burning Coal Theatre Company‘s “Lobby Lectures” series (for details, see http://www.burningcoal.org/third/lobby.html). Admission is FREE for anyone buying a ticket to The Shape of the Table and $5 for everyone else.


The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shape_of_the_Table (Wikipedia) and http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/edgard/shapeoft.htm (The Complete Review).

The Playwright: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth01J12O313412620079 (British Council Contemporary Writers) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Edgar_(playwright) (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).