Algonquin Wits Natter On as Talk of the Town Extends

News   Algonquin Wits Natter On as Talk of the Town Extends The Peccadillo Theater Company's world premiere of the original musical The Talk of the Town, which tells the tale of the literary friendships and rivalries among the members of the Algonquin Round Table, has extended.

The show, which began Nov. 4 and was to have closed on Dec. 5, will now run until Dec. 12. After Dec. 5, it becomes an Off-Broadway engagement, the ticket price goes up to $29, and the schedule expands to Tuesday-Saturday at 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM.

In a bit of a switch for the Peccadillo, which specializes in reclaiming lost plays by early American dramatists, Town is a new play about a few of the writers who penned some of those plays—as well as others who merely reviewed said entertainments.

Characters include Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman and Alexander Woollcott, a crowd known for its ready and often devastating wit. The title of the play comes from the name of a column in The New Yorker, which was created by another Algonquin wiseacre, publisher Harold Ross. Performances began Nov. 4.

The Algonquin Round Table arose late in the second decade of the 20th century when a press agent turned powerful drama critic Woollcott onto the charms of the Algonquin Hotel's Rose Room. Woollcott began inviting his friends to the dining hall. They included Vanity Fair writers Parker and Benchley, New York Times drama editor and playwright Kaufman, novelist Edna Ferber, New York World columnist and labor leader Heywood Broun, playwright Robert Sherwood and popular columnist Franklin P. Adams. Occasional joiners included actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, a young Tallulah Bankhead, short story writer Ring Lardner, comedian Harpo Marx and Broun's wife Ruth Hale.

Since most of the members worked for newspapers, the quips and goings-on of the circle quickly became copy, particularly in Adams' widely-read "The Conning Tower." The lunch gatherings were famous by the early '20s. The clique was variously known as "The Vicious Circle" and "The Poison Squad." Algonquin manager Frank Case, an admirer of writers, provided the group with free food and its own special large round table. The male members of the circle often met in hotel rooms on the upper floors to play poker. The Round Table faded in the years following the stock market crash. By the mid-30s, it had ceased to exist. The era was depicted in the 1994 film "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle."

Ginny Redington and Tom Dawes wrote the book, music and lyrics. Redington has written songs for Gladys Knight and Sarah Vaughan. Dawes was a member of the rock group The Cyrkle (best known for their Paul Simon composed hit "Red Rubber Ball"). He also produced a number of records for other artists, including Foghat.

Peccadillo artistic director Dan Wackerman directs. The choreographer is Mercedes Ellington, whose credits include the Broadway musical Play On!. The music director is Jeffrey Biering.

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