Press Release

Casey Childs, Artistic Director

in association with Susan Rose

present the New York premiere of

written by Bob Kingdom (with Neil Bartlett)
directed by Casey Childs

performances begin December 1, 1999
opening night December 15, 1999

"I shouldn't be telling you this, but..."  -- Elsa Maxwell

High above the glittering skyline of 1950's Manhattan, in her rent-free suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, the incomparable Elsa Maxwell - hostest-with-the-mostest, social power broker, and confidante to the stars - dolls up in drag for her next masquerade. Meanwhile, the infamous J. Edgar Hoover - head of the FBI and champion of a better, cleaner America - checks his files, tightens his grip and slips into something more comfortable.

Elsa was a titillating social butterfly who knew simply everybody, at least everybody worth knowing. George Bernard Shaw called her "the eighth wonder of the world," Noel Coward and Cole Porter wrote songs about her, Salvador Dali drew her. Wherever she was, that's where the party was. If you were on Elsa's list, your entry into High Society was assured; once on her blacklist, you were persona non gratra to all who followed the social sun.

Elsa's world of gaiety and scandal had a shadow - - the infamous J. Edgar Hoover. Eavesdropper, control freak, and rumored transvestite, he frowned upon frivolity and decadence, striving instead for a rigid standard of normalcy. Under his guidance, the FBI was also compiling lists, spreading gossip, and dividing the world into the acceptable and the unacceptable.

A theatrical tour-de-force, Elsa Edgar is a hilariously scathing comedy that glues together the lives of two of America's most notorious public figures of the twentieth century. Both were intoxicated by their ruthless power, both blurred the lines between gossip and fact as they saw fit, and both had dark fears and secrets which they kept hidden deep in overcrowded closets. This brief glimpse into their private lives is at the same time delightfully droll, sharply acidic, and surprisingly human.

Welsh actor/playwright Bob Kingdom is no stranger to portraying historical figures. Audiences and critics around the world, from Britain to America, Europe to Australia, have hailed his Dylan Thomas: Return Journey, directed by Anthony Hopkins, as the definitive Dylan Thomas performance. Mr. Kingdom's The Truman Capote Talk Show has enjoyed productions in Britain, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Hungary, and Israel, as well as Off-Broadway at the Perry Street Theatre. Rex Reed described The Truman Capote Talk Show as "one of the crowning achievements of the acting profession".

Performances begin December 1, 1999 at Primary Stages, 354 West 45th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues) NYC. Show times are Tuesdays - Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm & 7pm. Tickets are $35 for all performances with discounts available to students ($10 rush), seniors ("Senior Saturday"discount - 2pm matinee tickets $15 for seniors) and members of Actors' Equity ($15 rush). Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more.

For more information, please call Rick Berub?, Director of Marketing and Audience Services, at 212/333-4052

Other Reviews

This play was previously performed by Elaine Stritch.
"Actress-singer Elaine Stritch, who dazzled Broadway last year in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, is going to try a one woman/one man drama written by Bob Kingdom and already tried out in London. The play is titled Elsa/Edgar. Who are Elsa and Edgar? Elsa Maxwell and J. Edgar Hoover. Elaine will portray both of these icons from Depression, World War II and post-war America. Elsa, the social arbiter for the Hearst newspapers, died in the mid-'60s. Edgar, the much feared FBI director, died in the '80s. The gifted Gene Saks is to direct Elaine in Sag Harbor, N.Y. There'll be an opening in May. Then maybe Broadway and the world.
Tuesday, April 14, 1998
Copyright 1998, The Detroit News

The Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor opens its 1998 Summer Mainstage Season on May 20 with a theatrical tour-de-force featuring two of the American Theatre's most prodigious talents. "Elsa Edgar" - an outrageous new play by Bob Kingdom, will star Elaine Stritch in both title roles, playing social arbiter Elsa Maxwell and paranoiac top cop J. Edgar Hoover. This workshop production will be directed by the multi-award winner Gene Saks, and is presented by special arrangement with Patrick O'Shea. Performances run through June 8 and include a special Memorial Day Weekend Pre-Show Gala Reception on Sunday, May 24 at 7 p.m. "Elsa Edgar" was first performed by Bob Kingdom himself at London's Lyric Hammersmith Studio in the fall of 1998 to rave reviews. Mr. Kingdom is best known for writing and starring in his acclaimed solo shows "Dylan Thomas: Return Journey" and his 1994 Fringe First Winner "The Truman Capote Talks Show" which Mr. Kingdom performed at Bay Street in 1995. With this newest one-person power play, Mr. Kingdom pits two of the 20th Century's most notorious personalities against one another: the terrifying Elsa Maxwell, party hostess and social power broker, with J. Edgar Hoover, the formidable head of the FBI. In an astonishing double-act, Mr. Kingdom dishes the dirt on paranoia, blacklisting and scandal-mongering. Bringing this seemingly unlikely pair to life will be the mighty Elaine Stritch. Ms. Stritch received a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination for her recent performance in Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" . Other Broadway credits include �Parthy' in Harold Prince's "Showboat," Martha in Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf" and films such as Woody Allen's "September" and "A Farewell to Arms" . She has also appeared on television in "Law and Order" , for which she won an Emmy, and "An Inconvenient Woman" . Gene Saks has won three Tony Awards and two drama Desk Awards and twice has had three shows running simultaneously on Broadway. Credits include "Brighton Beach Memoirs" , "Mame" and "Broadway Bound" . Mr. Saks has also directed a number of shows in London including "The Man Who Came to Dinner" , and "Barefoot in the Park" .

London: Studio 2, 5 August 1997 at 7.30pm