Guild Hall is ready to take risks — perhaps never more so than in its coproduction of “Angry Young Man” with Manhattan’s Urban Stages, where British author Ben Woolf’s madcap play made its American premiere this spring.

The risky part lies not in the topicality of “Angry Young Man.” Rather, it’s that a Muslim immigrant’s experience in England is treated as clowning farce. Even at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005 this was a dicey proposition. But the timing of the play’s transfer to Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater — so soon after the Manchester concert bombing — makes it all the more so.

Yuri is a surgeon from an unnamed Muslim country. The doctor arrives in London the day before he’s to start his new job. Everyone he encounters — from so-called liberals to skinheads — makes stereotypical assumptions, including that Yuri is a “refugee.”


“At its heart, it’s not a funny subject,” concedes Josh Gladstone, director of theater programs at Guild Hall. The play is directed by Stephen Hamilton, familiar to Long Islanders as a co-founder of Bay Street Theater and more recently as director of “All My Sons” and “RED” at the Drew.

“It’s dark and topical stranger-in-a-strange-land humor,” Gladstone adds. “But it’s also very Marx Brothers. Clowns and satire, bizarre and antic in the commedia dell’arte tradition.”

Four actors — two men, two women — swap roles throughout, with each of them playing Yuri. “Everybody gets to have an interaction with the poor sap,” Gladstone says.

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Andrea Grover, who started her new job as executive director of Guild Hall 2 1⁄2 months ago, says she aims to make both the museum and performance programs more topical and, where possible, interrelated.

“Our mandates for 2017 and beyond are,” says Grover, “welcoming the next generation with more creative urgency and taking more risks to be socially relevant.”


Grover also wants to connect the art museum in the front of the building more directly with live performance and film in the back. “We hope to do more theater next year,” she says — at least three main productions, starting with “Romeo and Juliet” next March.

Among examples she cited for connecting gallery to stage is the “Avedon” exhibit later this summer. Instead of the usual fashion shots associated with Richard Avedon, there will be portraits of socially and politically relevant figures of his time, including, among many others, Allen Ginsberg.

On July 27, the film “Barney’s Wall” will be screened in the Drew. Barney Rosset, the late East Hampton publisher turned artist, published Ginsberg’s breakthrough poem, “Howl!,” in a 1957 edition of Evergreen Review. Rosset’s Grove Press published and defended, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer,” challenging and overturning obscenity law.

Another presenter unafraid to take risks.