The Nature and Purpose of the Universe was first presented in 1974 in a brief workshop production at the Direct Theatre in New York City, which featured Sigourney Weaver as Eleanor, Nicholas Hormann as Ronald, and Diana Belshaw as Elaine. The same theatre then presented the play twice in full productions in 1975 and 1979.
The Direct Theatre premiered the play in September, 1975, directed by Allen R. Belknap and Yannis Simonides.
It was presented in a “radio version” – as if the play was being put on by the fictional St. Dominick Inspirational Society Players from East Rutherford, N.J.
This directorial concept allowed the actors to stay mostly in place, in front of microphones; and the violence in the play was immediately stylized by the fact it was all suggested with sound effects and grunts from the actors, but no actual hitting. This concept also allowed for more doubling in the cast. An introductory speech to the audience, setting up this way of doing the play, is included in an addendum in the Dramatists Play Services acting edition.
The Direct Theatre re-presented the play at the Wonder Horse Theatre in New York City in February, 1979. This version was not the “radio” one, but presented the play as written, set in a house and various other locations (including Iceland). (The author likes both ways of presenting the play.)
It was directed by Allen R. Belknap. Setting by Jonathan Atkins, lighting by Richard Winkler, costumes by Giva Taylor.
Before both of these productions, the Direct Theatre presented a brief workshop of the “radio” version of the play in 1974, which featured Sigourney Weaver as Eleanor, Nicholas Hormann as Ronald, and Diana Belshaw as Elaine.
Some reviews included:
Eleanor Mann is a
miserably unhappy housewife in New Jersey. Her three sons are
disgraces, her religious fanatic husband beats her, and her vacuum cleaner
doesn’t work. In a dark comedy hommage to the Book of Job in the
Bible, Ronald and Eleanor are two angels sent down by God to drive poor
Eleanor to distraction. Elaine keeps showing up as various
neighbors, school officials and a nasty census taker to berate and yell at
Eleanor. Ronald appears as a suave Fuller Brush Man, promising to
run away with Eleanor and save her from all of this. Along the way,
the Pope is kidnapped and accidentally killed, the Mann family flees to
Iceland before the Fuller Brush Man shows up; and poor Eleanor falls into
deep despair, when in Iceland she faces one final overwhelming
disappointment that pushes her over the edge.
2 women, 7 men
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