The Twenty-Seventh Man
by Nathan Englander
directed by Barry Edelstein
originally produced at The Public Theater ,
New York, NY .
February 21, 2012
through March 25, 2012
The Twenty-Seventh Man:
The setting is a Soviet prison, 1952. Joseph Stalin’s secret police have rounded up 26 writers, the giants of Yiddish literature in Russia. As judgment looms, a twenty-seventh suddenly appears: PinchasPelovits, unpublished and unknown. Baffled by his arrest, he and his cellmates wrestle with the mysteries of party loyalty and politics, culture and identity, and with what it means to write in troubled times. When they discover why The Twenty-Seventh Man is among them, the writers come to realize that even in the face of tyranny, stories still have the power to transcend. Pelovits writes a story that moves them all, posing the question: Which one of us is to say the prayer for the dead? Or, who writes the eulogy when all the writers are gone?
You may know Nathan Englander as a novelist and short story writer. Over the last fifteen years, he has garnered extraordinary critical acclaim for his collection FOR THE RELIEF OF UNBEARABLE URGES and his novel THE MINISTRY OF SPECIAL CASES. His writing is beautiful and lyrical - his subjects are tremendously important and handled with a grace and lightness of touch that is as unique as it is heartbreaking.
Over the past two years, we at The Public have been working with Nathan closely on the adaptation of his short story, THE TWENTY-SEVENTH MAN, for the stage. The subject is compelling and directly in line with The Public's mission: the play takes place in Russia in the early 1950's, during the last spasm of Stalin's dictatorship and his persecution of Jewish writers and intellectuals. As the greatest of Yiddish writers are crowded together in a jail cell, they argue over what it means to be Jewish, what patriotism is, and what the duty of an artist is. From this material, Nathan has constructed a beautiful and, ultimately, uplifting tale about the power of art and the meaning of community. It's a marvelous play.
But equally important, this play marks the stage debut of one of America's most talented writers. It feels terribly significant to me that we make the stage, the theater, an attractive and exciting place for America's writers to explore a new audience and a new artistic form. Too often, the theater is cut off from the serious artistic endeavors of America's literary world- attracting Nathan to the stage seems to me an important marker in changing that equation.
The play will be directed by Barry Edelstein, the director of our Shakespeare Initiative and a very talented artist who has been working closely with Nathan on this project over the last two years.
It's a beautifully written new American play, about a terribly significant subject, developed over two years by The Public, marking the stage debut of a brilliant fiction writer.
The Edgerton Foundation’s support will allow for one (1) additional week of rehearsal. This grant will cover the personnel costs for the actors, a stage manager, a company manager, production assistants, and fringe benefits – in other words, the majority of the costs associated with an additional week of rehearsal.
Director: Barry Edelstein