No Nude Men (NNM) Productions continues its six-year legacy of bringing intelligent, challenging theater to the Bay Area, with a new stage adaptation of Matthew Lewis’s seminal horror novel, THE MONK. By turns comical, sad, horrific and romantic, the story has captivated audiences since it was first published in 1795 and rocketed its 20-year-old author to stardom (he was even made a member of the British Parliament and nicknamed "Monk" Lewis). It has been cited by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, James Herbert and numerous other writers as a major influence on their work and has never been out of print in over two centuries. This fall, NNM premieres Nirmala Nataraj’s spine-tingling new stage adaptation, the first to be attempted by an American theater company in over 50 years. NNM Artistic Director Stuart Bousel helms this highly entertaining meditation on love, religion, madness, and depravity, starring Ryan Hayes, Margery Fairchild and Cassie Powell, and featuring Meghan E. Kane, Christopher P. Kelly, Rik Lopes, Paul Rodrigues, Alison Sacha Ross, Lisa Swanson, James Tinsley, Nathan Tucker and Rana Weber. THE MONK plays October 10 through November 22 at the EXIT Stage Left in San Francisco. For tickets ($10 first weekend, $15–20 subsequent performances), the public can call (415) 994-1367, e-mail email@example.com or visit http://www.myspace.com/ambrosioandmatilda
THE MONK is a riveting gothic masterpiece that explores sexual desire, abuse of power and violent erotic impulses. Savaged by critics for its obscenity, the story pivots around a 17th century Spanish friar, Ambrosio (played by long-time NNM member, Ryan Hayes), whose life is crossed by a pair of young women: the tragic nun Agnes (Lisa Swanson) and the impoverished aristocrat Antonia (Margery Fairchild), both of whom contribute to the arrogant cleric's fall from grace. As Ambrosio is guided down a path of dissolution by a mysterious beauty named Matilda (Cassie Powell), the story weaves in and out of the quest for Antonia's hand by the handsome cavalier Don Lorenzo (James Tinsley) and the desperate search by Don Raymond (Paul Rodrigues) for the missing mother of his child. Along the way, ghosts, demons and malicious Mother Superiors intervene; bandits attempt murder on hapless travelers; and nothing short of the Spanish Inquisition turns up for the harrowing finale.
THE MONK was originally published in 1796, upon which it immediately achieved celebrity and cult status. However, given the sacrilegious nature of the book (considered controversial to this day), an injunction to restrain its sale was moved for and obtained. Author Matthew Lewis published a second edition from which he removed what he thought were the objectionable passages, but the work retained much of its horrific character. Lord Byron, in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, wrote of "Wonder-working Lewis, Monk or Bard, who fain wouldst make Parnassus a churchyard; Even Satan's self with thee might dread to dwell, And in thy skull discern a deeper hell." THE MONK was also greatly admired by the Marquis de Sade, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Gustave Flaubert and Emily Bronte.