A professor, an ex-con and a journey toward forgiveness at Luna Stage

Playwright Camilo Almonacid

WEST ORANGE, NJ — “The Assignment,” a gripping and timely new play by Camilo Almonacid, begins a limited engagement at Luna Stage on Thursday, Nov. 29. On the heels of Luna’s critically-acclaimed “Pirira,” “The Assignment” is the second play in Luna’s 2018-19 MainStage season, which features four new plays exploring how people can bridge ideological divides and create spaces of connection and healing.

“The Assignment” introduces Julian J. Torres, a 37-year-old, recently-paroled college student, who enrolls in professor Helen Payne’s contemporary literature course. Over the course of the semester, they challenge each other to engage deeply with both text and lived experience, and gradually move closer to something akin to truth.

Inspired by an innovative program that facilitates conversation between perpetrators of gun violence and families of victims, “The Assignment” was originally developed by Houses on the Moon Theater Company with Rhymes Over Beats. Luna Stage has supported further development of the play, and this marks the first production of Almonacid’s new version.

“‘The Assignment’ is a rich statement on forgiveness, and what happens to victims and perpetrators after they’ve been touched by violence and our criminal justice system,” Director Dan Swern said. “Camilo’s play is framed beautifully through Julian’s and Helen’s disparate interpretations of the world and how that brings them together.”

Swern co-founded and serves as producing director for coLAB Arts in New Brunswick, engaging artists, social advocates and communities to create transformative new work. He directed “Shake and Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost,” which is currently playing off-Broadway.

Luna Stage Artistic Director Ari Laura Kreith, who worked previously with Almonacid at Theatre 167 in Queens, praised both the play’s mission and Almonacid’s unique voice.

“Camilo’s characters are beautifully drawn, funny, surprising and true,” Kreith said. “He has a deep sense of the authenticity of human struggle and the ways epic needs intersect with everyday life; a delayed NJ Transit train can imperil a lifelong dream, and a cannoli or a cigarette can launch a friendship.”

“The Assignment” opens Saturday, Dec. 1. Performances, including previews, run from Thursday, Nov. 29 through Sunday, Dec. 16. Tickets are on sale now at LunaStage.org/TheAssignment. Group rates, as well as student and senior matinees, are available.