The Poor of New York

The North Coast Repertory Theatre continues its 30th Season with the North Coast premiere of the melodrama The Poor of New York by Dion Boucicault. The production opens at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 24 with an opening night gala that includes a champagne reception after the show.

Written and premiering in 1857, this play is a melodrama revolving around the efforts of a middle class family, newly impoverished by the financial panic of 1857, to survive against a villainous banker. 

It was an immediate success and playwright Boucicault went on to present it around the world, rewriting the place names to reflect the locales it was playing in. A genuine melodrama complete with good triumphing over evil!

The production is directed by Alex Service has been involved in theatre since the age of seven. While growing up in Indiana she acted in numerous community theatre productions. As a young adult, Alex directed three productions for Monroe County Civic Theater in Bloomington, Indiana: Shakespeare’s The History of King Henry IV, Part One, Hamilton Deane’s Dracula and George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra. Alex’s involvement in community theatre continued when she and her husband lived in the rural Wyoming town of Thermopolis. She led the revival of a dormant theatre group and directed two summer melodramas. Since moving to Humboldt with her husband and young twins in the fall of 2009, Alex has been involved in three NCRT productions. She played Verges, the comic relief sidekick, in Much Ado About Nothing (2012), was stage manager for The Tempest in 2013, and now is directing her first NCRT show. Alex is also a producer, actor, director and historical researcher for the Fortuna theatrical event Grave Matters and Untimely Departures, an annual Halloween cemetery tour that raises funds for the Fortuna Cemetery District.

“The Poor of New York was an immediate hit when it premiered in New York in December 1857, in the middle of the world’s first international financial collapse,” explains Service. “For its first audiences it was breathtakingly contemporary. It provided a dramatic re-envisioning of the kind of poverty and suffering that audience members themselves were experiencing, or that they witnessed on the way to the theatre. The play is an emotional roller coaster, complete with comic moments, heartstring-tugging drama and hair’s-breadth escapes. It is also a scathing indictment of large-scale financial corruption. The play’s villainous millionaire banker and newly-impoverished middle class family are as relevant today in our current recession (or depression?) as they were at the first performance on December 8, 1857.” Service sees the play as “a play about families. Two parallel families help each other survive in the face of grinding poverty. Contrasting with the love, kindness and generosity of these two poor families is the dysfunctional family of the play’s villains, the Bloodgoods. The impoverished Fairweathers and Puffies know true love and friendship, and will sacrifice themselves for each other. The millionaire Bloodgoods seek to buy happiness, and are left with nothing.”

The talented cast includes David Simms, Randall Larson, Shirley Santino, Toodie SueAnn Boll, Scott Osborn, Jim Buschmann and David Moore. Scenery and lighting design is by Calder Johnson; costume design by Jenn Hood. Jacqui Cain will stage-manage the production.

The Poor of New York opens at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 24 with an opening night gala that includes a champagne reception after the show. This performance will also serve as a benefit for the cast and crew. All seats for opening night are $15.00. The performance on Friday, July 25 will be a benefit performance for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Coast; tickets are $20.00. The performance on Saturday, July 26 will be a benefit for Humboldt County Children’s Author Festival; tickets are $20.00. Regular ticket price of $15.00 general admission and $12.00 for students and seniors will begin on Friday, August 1. The run will continue Fridays and Saturdays through August 16. There will be one additional regular Thursday performance on August 14. All evening performances begin at 8 p.m. There will be two matinee performances at 2 p.m. on Sundays August 3 and 10. NCRT is located at 300 Fifth Street, Eureka. For reservations, group rates, or more information, please call 442-NCRT (6278). www.ncrt.net.