Arts and Humanities
7:00 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Theatre [502] Opens New Season: From Louisville to Paris, With Love

Ryan Lash and Kate Bringardner in Theatre [502]'s production of Mat Smart's "The 13th of Paris."
Credit Gil Reyes / Theatre [502]

In just three seasons, Theatre [502] has established itself as a necessary addition to Louisville’s theater scene. The company has staged the Louisville premieres of award-winning playwrights’ work that otherwise might go unproduced locally, from Sarah Ruhl's "Dead Man's Cell Phone" to Annie Baker’s “The Aliens.”

The company opens its fourth season Friday with Mat Smart’s “The 13th of Paris.”  It’s a romantic comedy about a young man who travels to Paris with a suitcase full of the love letters his late grandparents exchanged. There, he hopes to unlock the mysteries of romantic love.

"The 13th of Paris" was commissioned and developed by South Coast Repertory Theatre in Southern California and made its world premiere at Pittsburgh's City Theatre. Smart is a core writer at the prestigious Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, where he was a two-time Jerome Fellowship recipient. His work has been produced by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, Geva Theatre and Seattle Public Theatre, among others. Co-artistic director Gil Reyes directs this production.

This is the second play of Smart’s the company has produced in their short tenure – Reyes opened their first season in the summer of 2011 with Smart’s choose-your-own-ending romantic comedy “The Debate Over Courtney O’Connell of Columbus, Nebraska,” in which an obscure local law allows a woman’s first love to challenge any other man for her hand in marriage in a public debate whose outcome then becomes legally binding.

“That play, actually, is very different from ‘The 13th of Paris.’ That play was very interactive and very guerrilla in its feel,” said Reyes in a recent interview. “This is more traditional in its structure. But I think what he does really well is write unique voices throughout [his work].”

Now in their fourth season, Theatre [502], led by Reyes and his co-artistic directors Amy Attaway and Mike Brooks, produces recent work by living buzzworthy playwrights and commissions new plays from local writers in the “Ludlow Quinn Presents” series, which is headed by [502] playwrights-in-residence Diana Grisanti and Steve Moulds. They produce what they call “recent and relevant theatre,” and Reyes says this play raises important questions about what a meaningful romantic relationship looks like in the 21st century. 

“And that is a very contemporary question, especially when we have so much pressure to be millionaire geniuses by the time we’re thirty, and to have it all perfect and figured out. That’s just not how things work,” said Reyes. “Love is icky and messy and problematic and romanticized, but that’s the problem. When you’re trying to live up to a standard that no relationship can achieve, you have to sometimes say, this is the relationship I have, and I like it, and it’s good enough.”

The [502] season will continue every first Friday at the Baron’s Theatre in the Whiskey Row Lofts on Main Street with the original play series “Ludlow Quinn Presents.”

The mainstage season includes Lucas Hnath’s “Red Speedo,” a sports doping story that opens in Septembe; Anne Washburn’s “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play” about a ragtag group of survivors in a burned-out post-apocalyptic landscape (February 2015); and Mike Bartlett’s “Bull,” the brutal workplace satire that will be the company’s entry in the Slant Culture Theatre Festival in November.

“We have kind of a heavy season otherwise, so we needed something to balance it out and be lighthearted and romantic and fun,” said Reyes. “Like all of our plays, [“The 13th of Paris”] has its darker moments, but ultimately I think we leave our audiences feeling regenerated.”

“The 13th of Paris” opens Friday at the Kentucky Center’s MeX Theatre and runs through June 28.