A world premiere production:

Vladimir Zelevinsky’s The Great Seduction next up at WEPG

In the mid-19th century, the prolific French playwright and author Alexandre Dumas penned a five-act bedroom farce Mademoiselle de Belle Isle. It was a tasteful telling of the story of an arrogant Duke, a randy Countess, a young stud of a chevalier and an innocent maiden freshly arrived from the provinces, seasoned with generous dollops of low humor and decolletage.

Well, okay. It wasn’t exactly tasteful. But it was a rollicking and bawdy smash hit.

A century and a half later, playwright Vladimir Zelevinsky decided it was time for the Madmoiselle to return to the stage. His new play, The Great Seduction (increasingly freely adapted from Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle by Alexandre Dumas), retains all the wit and charm of Dumas’s original work in a tighter two-act format and with a different and surprising climax that adds a clever twist to one of the most important moments in French history.

West End Players Guild will present the world premiere performance of The Great Seduction November 9-18 at the theatre in the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Boulevard in the Central West End.

The play offers all of the great elements of a French bedroom farce. The Duke and the Countess are lovers – but each is, of course, just one of several of the other’s paramours. The innocent young Gabrielle arrives from the provinces, asking help to get into the Bastille to visit her father, a prisoner. The Duke is smitten and eager to help her (for a small price). The Countess is jealous, but also smitten herself, with the handsome young chevalier Raoul. The Duke makes a bet with Raoul that he can seduce the first woman they see . . . and in walks Gabrielle. (Oh, and did we say that she is betrothed to Raoul?) The wily Countess decides to fix the odds. And from there on, as the French say, “l’hilarité s’ensuit” (hilarity ensues).

Steve Callahan directs a cast which includes Jason Meyers as the Duke, Heather Sartin as the Countess, Gracie Sartin as Gabrielle, Alex Fyles as Raoul and Rachel Bailey as the Countess’s long-suffering maid Mariette.

The play marks a return to West End Players Guild for playwright Zelevinsky, whose play Manifest|Destiny had its St. Louis premiere on the West End stage in 2016. Zelevinsky may well be America’s most prolific playwright who also holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in nuclear physics from MIT as well as more than half-a-dozen patents on data processing and evaluation systems. In addition to writing several other plays that have been produced in New York, Boston, Canada and the United Kingdom, Zelevinsky’s unusual career arc includes writing arts criticism for the Boston Globe and four years as the playwright in residence at Theatre Cooperative in Somerville, Massachusetts, as well as his “day-job” career as a researcher in artificial intelligence.

Mr. Zelevinsky has advised WEPG that he plans to attend the opening night performance on Friday, November 9. Everyone attending the show that evening will be invited to attend a reception for the author immediately following the performance. Tickets for this performance and all other performances this season are on sale now at www.WestEndPlayers.org/tickets.

WEPG’S production of The Great Seduction will be performed seven times over two weekends at 8 p.m. Thursday (second week only), Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. All performances are in the theatre at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Boulevard in the Central West End. Free parking and the theatre entrance are at the rear of the church.

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The Countess de Bourbon (Heather Sartin, L) is a wily courtesan; Mademoiselle Gabrielle of Belle Isle (Gracie Sartin, R) is a simple country girl who seems to have a lot to learn about the ways of the big city. Or does she? The West End Players Guild presents the world premiere of Vladimir Zelevinsky’s The Great Seduction, November 9-18 in the theatre at the Union Avenue Christian Church.
(John Lamb photo)

Auditions for Exit, Pursued by a Bear and Photograph 51 will be November 10th

Auditions for WEPG’s final two shows of the 2018-19 season will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, November 10, at the Union Avenue Christian Church. Click here for all the details.