Thérèse Raquin, a stunning play by Helen Edmundson adapted from Émile Zola’s classic novel, makes its Broadway debut October 1 as the first production at Studio 54 in this 50th Anniversary season.
Thérèse Raquin is a story that I’ve wanted to put on stage for more than 15 years. Having read Zola’s novel and seen earlier stage versions of the piece, I was completely enthralled by this tale of passion, power, lust, and guilt in 19th century France. I read every possible adaptation I could get my hands on, but none had captured the full vitality of what was on the page. This was clearly no easy task. Even Zola himself had written and quickly dismissed his own stage adaptation, saying that he had “brutalize[d] and disfigure[d] it to make it fit a new mold.” I decided that the best plan was to start over completely, and so Roundabout commissioned the gifted playwright Helen Edmundson (best known here in New York for adapting Coram Boy) to breathe new life into Thérèse Raquin.
Helen proved to be more than up to this significant challenge. Her script vibrates with the soaring emotions of these characters, as they step out of the confines of polite society and allow their more base animal instincts to take over. Helen has found a way to honor Zola’s original while heightening it in ways that would never have been allowed in a play during his time. There’s good reason that the novel was considered scandalous when it was first published in 1867, and Helen has captured the energy of that legacy, giving us the feeling that we are getting a glimpse behind the façades that society requires.
Our wonderful director, Evan Cabnet (who directed The Dream of the Burning Boy for Roundabout Underground), has astutely pointed out that Thérèse herself is a character who, while not as familiar to American audiences, deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as names like Hedda, Nora, and Miss Julie. It is, in fact, quite likely that writers like Ibsen and Strindberg would never have created these iconic and complex women without Zola first bringing us Thérèse.
When you have such a stunning character, it’s essential to find a performer of stunning talent to bring her to life, and we have certainly found that in Keira Knightley. I am so thrilled to be giving Keira her Broadway debut with this piece. She is an actress of incredible depth and range (as her two Academy Award nominations will attest), and I can think of no one better suited to tackle this role.
One of my favorite things about the non-profit theatre is having the opportunity to rediscover a piece like Thérèse Raquin, shedding light on a neglected classic and bringing it to the stage in a way that makes it completely new. That is exactly what we have to look forward to with this production of, and I am eager to hear your thoughts on it. Please continue to email me throughout this 50th Anniversary season at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
2015-2016 Season, From Todd Haimes, Therese Raquin