David Mamet may have titled one of his most enduring plays A Life In The Theatre, but he wrote it when he had barely passed age 30. Coming to Off-Broadway are the remembrances of a man who really has lived a life in the theatre -- producer Alexander H. Cohen, who will bring his one-person show, Star Billing, to the Promenade Theatre beginning April 20.
According to the New York Times (March 28), Cohen will offer anecdotes about such notables as Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton and Mike Nichols. Cohen told the Times that his first experience as a NY producer involved working with a playwright who was "a refugee from Europe and from talent." The show closed in a week -- and so did the theatre it was in. His next show was the hit Angel Street, and -- more than a hundred shows later -- Cohen will produce the commercial West End transfer of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Herbal Bed in April.
Cohen, who had begun writing his memoirs, got the idea for a solo show when he had to announce to a packed house at the Stamford Center for the Arts that Tony Bennett couldn't appear that night. After explaining the procedure for refunds, Cohen stayed onstage, kibbitzed and reminisced.
Star Billing originated in a book of memoirs that Cohen started, but dropped. It got a further nudge at that fateful night in Stamford. "I went out and did the pitch about refunds," Cohen said. "I found myself out there for an hour telling stories, and they stayed."
The show is being represented by David Rothenberg's office -- a fitting connection, since Rothenberg staged his own solo show of reminiscenes, At War With The Dinosaurs, at Off-Broadway's Mint Theatre in 1996. Produced by Ben Sprecher and Jeffrey Ash, Star Billing plays on Sunday and Monday nights (dark nights for the upcoming Bermuda Avenue Triangle) at the Promenade Theatre at 76th St. For tickets and information call (212) 719-3297.
--By David Lefkowitz