The community of ex-cons, junkies and crackheads crowding into the Bank Street Theater are surrounded by love, laughter and wild applause. They are the characters peopling Stephen Adly Giurgis’ 1999 play, “In Arabia, We’d All Be King.” It is the second night of the week-long New York, New York Festival — the first-ever festival featuring plays about New York City — presented though March 24 for free by the Labyrinth Theater, the theater company that Giurgis joined in 1994, and that turned him from an actor into a playwright. He is now best-known for “The Motherfucker With The Hat,” which was a hit on Broadway. But you can glimpse where those characters and themes came from in this earlier play, which was given a reading, directed by Guirgis, with a cast of a dozen professional actors, including Guirgis himself (bottom left in photograph) and such familiar performers as Colman Domingo, Craig “muMs” Grant and Liza Colon-Zayas, who was in the cast of the original production.
“This was the first play I wrote where I wanted to show what was going on internally, not just get a laugh every few moments,” Giurgis said in a brief conversation after the reading. (The play, though, gets lots of laughs.) “I was struggling in life….I was spending too much time outside the theater”
Tickets are free to all readings in the New York New York Festival, but you have to enter a digital lottery the day of the performance.
To find out what will be playing at given time during the weekend marathon — 48 hours straight through of plays about New York City — text NYNY to 95997. They will send out play and casting updates all weekend prior to each reading.
Here is the daily schedule until the weekend:
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