- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - Celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg and Brian Dennehy have agreed to perform for one time only a thoughtful, 70-minute monologue. But there’s a catch: They get no script ahead of time.

The play, “White Rabbit Red Rabbit,” by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour makes its New York premiere this Monday at the Westside Theatre, promising to be an eye-popping experience for everyone.

Nathan Lane is the first New York guinea pig, followed each successive Monday by Goldberg (March 14), Patrick Wilson (March 21), Dennehy (March 28), Wayne Brady (April 4), Mike Birbiglia (April 11), Cynthia Nixon (April 18) and Martin Short (May 2).

Others who have signed up for future dates include Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming, Ramin Karimloo, Andrea Martin, Marin Mazzie, Donna Murphy, David Hyde Pierce and George Takei.

“We know these are huge names and we pinch ourselves because we feel so fortunate that so many people have jumped onboard,” said Tom Kirdahy, who is co-producing the show. “So many of them said, ‘That truly scares the hell out of me. I have to do it.’”

Soleimanpour wrote the play after being barred from leaving his native country because of his status as a conscientious objector. The play requires no set or director and the actors don’t read the script until they are onstage for the first time. Then they are asked never to perform it again.

The play had its world premiere in 2011 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has since been performed across the world. Kirdahy and Devlin Elliott, his producing partner at Maberry Theatricals, saw it at the festival and were impressed.

“It creates this bond between the audience and performer in a way that we really hadn’t experienced before,” Elliott said. “You are experiencing everything in real time.”

While Kirdahy and Elliott prefer not to reveal too much about the play itself, they did tell each actor they approached that it wasn’t a history lesson or a polemic and that it speaks to our humanity.

“It really is show up, take the leap, be willing to be silly in front of an audience,” Kirdahy said. “It is truly entertaining and it is the embodiment of a theatrical experience. You can’t get it any more raw than this.”

A portion of the play’s profits will go to PEN International, an association of writers working to promote literature and defend freedom of expression around the world.

Elliott said the acting challenge - and the chance to celebrate human rights - has become so intriguing to some actors that he has been forced to turn some away.

“It’s a nice problem to have,” he said.

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Online: http://www.whiterabbitredrabbit.com

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Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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