A Commercial Run of Betty's Summer Vacation Is on Ice

News   A Commercial Run of Betty's Summer Vacation Is on Ice Producer David Stone has dropped his plan to mount a commercial Off Broadway transfer of Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation, the well-received dark comedy that ran February to April 1999 at Playwrights Horizons.

Producer David Stone has dropped his plan to mount a commercial Off Broadway transfer of Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation, the well-received dark comedy that ran February to April 1999 at Playwrights Horizons.

"I'm very disappointed," Stone told Playbill On-Line. "We needed a certain sized theatre and those theatres were not available when I felt we needed to do this, in the fall. After the fall, too much time has passed."

The cast of director Nicholas Martin's staging is committing to other work, and Variety reported that Durang is shopping the play elsewhere. Stone said he hopes the play gets produced, but is returning the money he raised and is focusing on his other projects, including the upcoming Issac Mizrahi solo show and a move of the one-man comedy, Fully Committed, to a venue beyond the Vineyard Theatre. He's also producing Off-Broadway's The Vagina Monologues.

Stone's past projects have included Full Gallop, The Diary of Anne Frank, James Naughton: Street of Dreams and The Santaland Diaries.

* Playwrights Horizons' staging of Betty's Summer Vacation was a big winner at the 1999 OBIE Awards ceremony May 17.

The play, a grisly, wild satire of society's appetite for sensationalism, played 26 previews and 41 performances at Playwrights Horizons Feb. 19 April 18. It was extended three times.

Word of mouth and favorable reviews prompted occasional cancellation lines at the box office.

The play -- a raucous indictment of tabloid culture audiences -- was cheered by fans of the absurdist-steeped, subversive Durang, who packed a summer-share beach house with an abuse victim, a serial killer, a drifter exhibitionist, a sex addict and a psychotic, alcoholic matron (Kristine Nielsen) who was part Auntie Mame and part Ethel Merman. At the center of the mayhem was Betty (played by Kellie Overbey), who just wanted some quiet. (Betty is not amused to discover that in addition to her housemates, there is a laughtrack and audience commentary coming from the ceiling.)

The manic comedy won three OBIE Awards May 17. Durang was given the Distinguished Playwriting OBIE, Martin took an OBIE for Direction, and Kristine Nielsen earned a Performance OBIE for her kinetic turn as the play's drunk matron, Mrs. Sizemagraff.

The OBIEs, sponsored by The Village Voice, recognize Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theatre.

Betty's Summer Vacation was also nominated for three Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding New Play, Outstanding Featured Actress (Play) and Outstanding Director.

The play has been a fierce comeback for Durang, whose Sex and Longing took a drubbing at Lincoln Center two seasons ago.

Filled with more dysfunctional characters and hot-button issues that a week's worth of daytime TV talk shows, Betty's Summer Vacation was expected to close March 28, and was extended to April 4 and then to April 11 and April 18.

Since previews began Feb. 19, Betty's Summer Vacation also had its detractors: Some subscribers walked out of the play, which is liberally spiced with references to rape, incest, dismemberment and more.

The cast included Guy Boyd (Sex and Longing), Geneva Carr, Nat DeWolf, Jack Ferver, Julie Lund, Kristine Nielsen (Dog Opera), Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. and Troy Sostillio (Corpus Christi, Gross Indecency). No word on whether the same actors will return to the production if it's remounted in the fall.

Designers were Thomas Lynch (scenic), Michael Krass (costumes), Kevin Adams (lighting) and Kurt B. Kellenberger (sound).

Durang's last major New York play was in October 1996, with Broadway's Sex and Longing starring Guy Boyd, Sigourney Weaver and Dana Ivey.

Sex and Longing also dealt with sex addiction, along with American Puritanism and governmental and religious hypocrisy. The Lincoln Center production was not liked by critics and had a short run at Broadway's Cort Theatre.

Other works by the playwright, whose comedies often push the dark limits of farce, include Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, The Actor's Nightmare, Beyond Therapy, The Marriage of Bette and Boo and History of the American Film.

In addition to Full Gallop, Martin has directed The Rehearsal at the Roundabout Theatre Company, Bosoms and Neglect at Signature Theatre Company and Overtime at Manhattan Theatre Club.

-- By Kenneth Jones