The Public Theatre presents “Orphans,” a savage and ferociously funny play, beginning Friday, March 19. It’s a drama in which three orphans form an extremely unusual family.

Two orphaned brothers, now grown, eke out a precarious existence in a rundown house in Philadelphia.

They had avoided institutionalization years before by biting the hand of the social worker who had come to get them.

Into their unusual world comes a third orphan, a 50-year-old gangster on the lam who takes a fatherly interest in his fellow dead-end kids.

“This is the kind of play that every actor wants to do,” said director Christopher Schario. “It’s a ‘Lord of the Flies,’ anything-can-happen world in which two brothers grow up unsupervised by parents. Their day-to-day existence is filled with imaginative games gone awry and endless cans of Starkist tuna, peanut butter sandwiches and pick-pocketed riches.

The unconventional relationship of the orphans develops with vivid language, with gritty and savage humor, and with ferocity and violence.

“It’s an unusual journey for both the actors and the audience,” Schario said. “Ultimately, what happens is that this crazy world gets transformed into something you could never imagine.”

Schario, who has been artistic director of The Public Theatre through its 11 seasons, said “Orphans,” written by Lyle Kessler, is strong in the two things that are pillars of TPT’s best productions: cast and script.

“We’re really thrilled to have Mike Genovese in the role of Harold, who’s the older and steadier influence on the brothers,” Schario said.

Genovese will be a recognizable face to Public Theatre audiences from his previous work at TPT in “Love Letters” with his wife, actress Ellen (“Belle of Amherst”) Crawford, as well as from his numerous guest spots and reoccurring roles on popular TV series including “E.R.,” “NYPD Blue,” “The Practice” and “Judging Amy.” Genovese has also appeared at most major regional theaters throughout the country, most recently at San Diego Rep as Willy Loman in “Death of Salesman,” Vanya in “Uncle Vanya,” and George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Evan Mueller and Righteous Jolly portray the orphaned brothers, Treat and Philip.

Jolly was most recently seen at TPT as Hank in “Marvin’s Room.” Mueller is a New York-based actor and recent graduate of the esteemed theater program at Rutgers University.

Off-Broadway audiences gave this play standing ovations when it exploded onto the New York theater scene in 1985. It was originally a production by the famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company, renowned for its electric acting style and absorbing choice of material.

The play by Lyle Kessler once jump-started the careers of famous actors John Mahoney, Gary Sinise, Kevin Anderson and Terry Kinney.

Like the plays of Tennesse Williams, Kessler’s “Orphans” is outrageously unrealistic as well as wise and knowledgeable about the human condition. It’s also as theatrical as the classic plays by Williams.

The message of author Kessler in “Orphans” is that we need each other, and Kessler says it in terms we can’t ignore. The play is filled with humor, suspense and pathos.

The design team for “Orphans” includes Jake Kavanagh, set design; Bart Garvey, lighting design; and Kathleen Brown, costume design.

“We have been looking forward to doing “Orphans” for a long time,” Schario said. “It’s a real actors’ piece.”

“Orphans” contains adult language.


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