Actors Theatre of Louisville's internationally recognized Humana Festival of New American Plays celebrates its 25th anniversary with full-length plays by Richard Dresser, Eduardo Machado, Melanie Marnich, Jane Martin, Charles L. Mee and Mac Wellman, Feb. 27-April 7. It's the first season under new artistic director Marc Masterson.
The major works on ATL's three stages are part of a mix that includes three related 10-minute works (by Arthur Kopit); so called "phone plays" that offer playlets of pre-recorded conversations one can eavesdrop on via telephone receiver; and an "anthology" work performed by the ATL apprentice company, on the subject of heaven and hell, with pieces written by a number of playwrights.
Observers of the festival agree that the meat and potatoes of the fest is the slate of full-length plays. Some of the past works that premiered there and went on to greater glory include Agnes of God, Crimes of the Heart and The Gin Game.
World-premiere works are performed in repertory and are seen, toward the end of the fest, by producers, critics and other industry folk in a special visitors weekend. ATL's former artistic director, Jon Jory, who shepherded the Humana Festival from the beginning, returns after an absence of only four months to direct the new work by Jane Martin (Keely and Du), the mysterious Kentucky playwright who has never made a public appearance.
Here are the full-length works: • Wonderful World, by Richard Dresser, directed by Marc Masterson: "The perils of honesty are revealed in this twisted comedy about two brothers who find themselves telling and hearing the truth, thanks to one brother's wife."
• When the Sea Drowns in Sand, by Eduardo Machado, directed by Michael Garces: "At the height of the Elian Gonzalez crisis, a Cuban American returns home following 40 years of exile. This post-cold-war comedy points to the personal hardships caused by political stand offs."
• Quake by Melanie Marnich, directed by Susan Booth: "In this comic journey, a young woman follows the curve of the world as she searches for the love of her life."
• Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage: A "B" Western Horror Flick for the Stage, by Jane Martin, directed by Jon Jory: "Set in deepest Wyoming, this macabre comedy pits the forces of good against evil—and finds some surprising common ground."
• bobrauschenbergamerica by Charles L. Mee, directed by Anne Bogart: "In collaboration with Anne Bogart and The SITI Company, Mee takes us on a wild roadtrip through the last half of the American century as the artist Robert Rauschenberg might have envisioned it."
• Description Beggared; or the Allegory of WHITENESS by Mac Wellman, music by Michael Roth, directed by Lisa Peterson: "When the Ring family of Rhode Island assembles to take the family portrait, they somehow get it dreadfully wrong and must do the century all over."
Dresser's previous ATL premieres include Gun-shy, Below the Belt, Alone at the Beach and The Road to Ruin. Machado is the author of over 25 plays and several translations, including In the Eye of the Hurricane (15th Humana Festival), Cuba and the Night, Stevie Wants to Play the Blues, A Burning Beach, Why to Refuse and Broken Eggs. Marnich is the author of the plays Blur (planned for Manhattan Theatre Club in spring 2001), Beautiful Again, Tallgrass Gothic and Season. Martin, an award-winning and Pulitzer Prize nominated Kentucky playwright, returns to ATL following her premiere of Anton in Show Business in the 24th Humana Festival. Her other works include Mr. Bundy, Jack and Jill, Keely and Du, Middle Aged White Guys, Cementville, Vital Signs and Talking With. Mee's plays include Big Love( 24th Humana Festival ), The Berlin Circle, Orestes, Vienna: Lusthaus, The Investigation of the Murder in El Salvador, Another Person is a Foreign Country and Time to Burn. Wellman is the author of Girl Gone, The Lesser Magoo, Cat's-Paw, Infrared, Fnu Lnu, The Sandalwood Box and Second-Hand Smoke. He has received numerous honors, including both NEA and Guggenheim Fellowships, several Obies and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award. He currently teaches playwriting at Brooklyn College.
Playwright Arthur Kopit's three 10-minute one-acts are to be seen in "serial form" under the title Chad Curtiss, Lost Again. According to the season announcement, "Chad sets out to discover Truth and Beauty, but wrong turns lead him again and again into perilous situations."
For more information or reservations, call (502) 584-1205 or (800) 4ATL TIX, or visit the website at www.actorstheatre,org.
— By Kenneth Jones