Albee, Ruehl and Bryggman Sculpt Nevelson in Occupant, Opening June 5

News   Albee, Ruehl and Bryggman Sculpt Nevelson in Occupant, Opening June 5 A portrait of the late, legendary artist Louise Nevelson is created by her longtime friend — Edward Albee — in the Signature Theatre Company's world premiere, Edward Albee's Occupant, starring Larry Bryggman and Mercedes Ruehl, opening Off-Broadway June 5.
Mercedes Ruehl in The Occupant.
Mercedes Ruehl in The Occupant. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Previews began May 6 at Signature's home at the Peter Norton Space. This isn't the first time Signature has tried to shape the play; Neal Huff and the late Anne Bancroft created the roles in previews for an earlier 2002 Signature production that shut down due to Bancroft falling ill.

This new staging is directed by Pam MacKinnon, who staged Albee's Peter and Jerry at Second Stage. Albee has said there has not been any rewriting in the part of the reporter, who is now played by an older actor.

The initial eight-week run sold out in three days, one month before performances were scheduled to begin. The one-week extension (with all tickets $65 for that week) takes the production to July 6.

According to Signature, "Edward Albee's Occupant is a portrait of acclaimed sculptor Louise Nevelson and a quest to capture a charismatic and complex artist and persona. What is the relationship between creator and creation? Who was Louise Nevelson? Only she knew."

Nevelson was a friend of Albee's for 25 years. Her final days are charted in the play. "Even when she was in the hospital, dying, fame pursued her," Albee told Playbill. "People would see her name on her hospital room and go in and talk to her. Finally, she had the nurse take down her name and just put up the word 'Occupant.' I'm interested in how people create themselves. All artists do that. She was really quite a woman."

Sets are designed by Christine Jones with costumes by Jane Greenwood and lights by David Lander.

This production, at the end of a 2007-08 season devoted to the works of Charles Mee, is a "Legacy Production" by Signature as part of its "Premiere Series," which presents new work by former Playwrights-in-Residence. Signature is known for devoted an entire season to one playwright.

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Ruehl has appeared on Broadway in Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (Drama Desk Award, Tony Award nomination). Her other stage credits include The Marriage of Bette and Boo (Obie Award), Lost in Yonkers (Tony Award), the one-woman play Woman Before a Glass (Obie Award), and Viva la Vida! (Bay Street Theatre). Her many film credits include "The Fisher King" (Academy Award, Golden Globe Award), "Married to the Mob," "Big," "Last Action Hero," "What's Cookin'," "More Dogs Than Bones," "Another You," "Heartburn," "The Warriors," "Four Friends," "Radio Days," "84 Charing Cross Road," "Leader of the Band," "The Secret of My Success," "Slaves of New York" and "Crazy People."

Bryggman was Tony Award-nominated for playing the father in Proof, and is known as Dr. John Dixon on "As the World Turns." He appeared in David Mamet's Romance Off-Broadway, and in Broadway's Festen, Twelve Angry Men, Picnic and more.

Albee was born on March 12, 1928, and began writing plays 30 years later. His plays include The Zoo Story (1958), The Death of Bessie Smith (1959), The Sandbox (1959), The American Dream (1960), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1961-62, Tony Award), Tiny Alice (1964), A Delicate Balance (1966, Pulitzer Prize; 1996, Tony Award), All Over (1971), Seascape (1974, Pulitzer Prize), Listening (1975), Counting the Ways (1975), The Lady from Dubuque (1977-78), The Man Who Had Three Arms (1981), Finding the Sun (1982), Marriage Play (1986-87), Three Tall Women (1991, Pulitzer Prize), Fragments (1993), The Play About the Baby (1997), The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2000, 2002 Tony Award), Occupant (2001), Peter and Jerry (Act 1, Homelife; Act 2, The Zoo Story) (2004), and Me, Myself and I (2007).

The Peter Norton Space is located in Manhattan at 555 West 42nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.

For more information on Signature visit signaturetheatre.org.

Mercedes Ruehl and Larry Bryggman in <i>The Occupant.</i>
Mercedes Ruehl and Larry Bryggman in The Occupant. Photo by Carol Rosegg
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