Farahani to make European stage debut – Play about comedian, activist Gregory coming to NYC

This file photo taken on May 18, 2015 shows Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani posing during a photocall for the film ‘Les Deux Amis’ (Two Friends) at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southeastern France on May 18, 2015. (AFP)
This file photo taken on May 18, 2015 shows Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani posing during a photocall for the film ‘Les Deux Amis’ (Two Friends) at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southeastern France on May 18, 2015. (AFP)

PARIS, March 24, (Agencies): Iranian film star Golshifteh Farahani is to make her European stage debut in May playing the tragic heroine Anna Karenina in Paris.

The 32-year-old, who made her name internationally in Asghar Farhadi’s modern classic “All About Ely”, was the first top Iranian actor to star in a Hollywood film, raising eyebrows in her homeland when she appeared in Ridley Scott’s “Body of Lies” in 2008.

Authorities later forced her into exile in France and in 2012 she caused further controversy by posing nude for the cover of art magazine Egoiste in an act of feminist defiance of Iran’s religious leaders.

“Paris is the only place on the planet where women are not made feel guilty all the time,” she told the magazine. “(Back home) you are guilty as soon as you feel your first sexual feelings, even before you reach adolescence.”


Farahani — daughter of the acclaimed Iranian director Behzad Farahani — will play Karenina at the Theatre de la Tempete in an adaptation of Leon Tolstoy’s novel written and directed by Gaetan Vassart.

She is starring in the fifth of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films alongside Johnny Depp next year after appearing in “Rosewater”, the directorial debut of former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart.

That film told the story of Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was locked up in Tehran after reporting on violence against protesters during the country’s presidential election in 2009.

A hard-drinking American posing as a correspondent while up to dirty tricks and a beautiful blonde trying to make her name in besieged Madrid during the Spanish Civil War are the main characters of Ernest Hemingway’s only play, “The Fifth Column”.

The pair will be familiar to fans of the writer and of journalist Martha Gelhorn as they fall in love and feud in their rooms in the Hotel Florida while Franco’s forces shell the city.

The play received a cool reception when it was published in 1938 and has rarely been performed since. Now, 80 years from the start of the conflict that defined an era, it is making its London debut with a three-week run at the Southwark Playhouse.

The production is staged by Two’s Company, which specialises in resurrecting forgotten works of the 20th century.

“Hemingway was writing it in the middle of the civil war, in his hotel room. He had no idea how the war would finish. There was no hindsight involved. That was what attracted us,” producer Graham Cowley said.

It also has a particular resonance today in its depiction of war, repression, foreign intervention and civilian suffering.

Hemingway was already a celebrated novelist when he showed up in Spain to cover the conflict and he put his reputation behind the Republican cause in its fight against the fascists.

Gelhorn was a young journalist when she met him in Madrid, where they embarked on an affair despite him being married. They were later to wed but split acrimoniously after several years.

She became a legendary war correspondent, revered by new generations of reporters, and always refused to discuss her relationship with the literary lion.

As the play’s love affair between Philip Rawlings and Dorothy Bridges unfolds, the action contrasts the idealism of foreign volunteers and the ruthlessness of the rival factions.

Rawlings is actually a Republican counter-espionage agent, involved in the arrest, torture and execution of fascist infiltrators. (The phrase “The Fifth Column” comes from a Francoist general’s boast that he had four columns outside the city and a fifth inside.)

In his introduction, Hemingway acknowledged that writing of Republican misdeeds would earn him criticism from the left.

Actor Simon Darwen, as Rawlings, said he was playing the fictional character rather than Hemingway himself.

“The role is written how Hemingway would have liked to have been seen. The womanising and drinking, that’s true, but the action, the military stuff it’s a ‘Boy’s Own’ portrayal,” he told Reuters during a break in rehearsal.

“Rawlings is a guy who is very jaded and very tired and his job is taking a toll on him. But there is love for Dorothy. He convinces himself he can’t have her and his work, so he makes the choice. To be so awful to her so that she pushes him away.”

Dorothy resembles Gelhorn in looks, but not in character.

“Gelhorn was one of a kind,” said Alix Dunmore, who plays Dorothy. “Absolutely fearless and a junkie for war…and not that interested in sex. She was always going off to war.”

“The ‘Fifth Column’ has a version of her that was clingy and needy and flippant and fluffy and it seems it was the other way round. Hemingway has written a fantasy version of himself.”

Stephen Ventura, who plays the hotel manager, had more than just a professional interest in the play.

A play about comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory will open off-Broadway this spring starring Joe Morton and with an original song by John Legend.

“Turn Me Loose,” by Gretchen Law will play the Westside Theatre starting May 3 with John Gould Rubin directing. Legend and Mike Jackson will produce.

Gregory, 83, was one of the first black comedians to be embraced by white America in the early 1960s. His sharp commentary soon led him into civil rights activism, where his ability to woo audiences through humor helped bring national attention to fledgling efforts at integration and social equality.

Morton is best known for his role as Rowan Pope on “Scandal.” His film roles include “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Speed,” “American Gangster” and “The Astronaut’s Wife.”

Legend has lately turned his attention to theater, producing the solo off-Broadway show “3 Mics” by Neal Brennan and contributing to “The SpongeBob Musical” in Chicago.

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