Stacy Keach, Ron Rifkin, Laura San Giacomo, Ed Asner, Jacqueline Bissett, and Rue McClanahan are among many stars scheduled to appear in L.A. Theatre Works' "The Play's The Thing," the seventh annual live radio theatre series containing seven plays with four performances each, running between October 16 and March 1. The plays will all be recorded for a later broadcast over KCRW 89.9FM in Los Angeles, Santa Monica College's radio station which features NPR.
Three of the plays are set in prime radio days, 1938-45, while the other three take place in pre-radio days.
The season begins with Broadway veterans Stacy Keach, JoBeth Williams and Lindsay Crouse in the 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The State of the Union. It is a popular time to do a presidential production, although the union in this play refers to the chaotic state of the relationship between a presidential candidate and his potential first lady. The script has been updated with references to the modern election, including Collin Powell and Newt Gingrich, by playwright and New Yorker columnist Sidney Blumenthal. (Oct. 16-19).
Next on the air, the original Broadway cast repeats its performances of Arthur Miller's Broken Glass. Francis Conroy, David Dukes, Amy Irving, and Ron Rifkin recreate Brooklyn in 1938. The play records the strange paralysis of a middle-aged woman, whose husband can find no cause for her condition other than the harrowing news she hears about Nazi Germany. However, it turns out he may be looking too far afield for the source of her horror. (Nov. 6-9).
The next play transports audiences all the way to Hawaii and back to 1919, where Philip Kan Gotanda's The Ballad of Yachiyo is set. Inspired by a real story, a beautiful young girl leaves her impoverished parents in to live in the lush cane fields with her sophisticated relatives. While her hostess teaches her to attract a wealthy husband, she passionately falls in love with the hostess' husband. Stars Sala Iwamastu, Dian Kobayashi, Emily Kuroda, Lane Nishikawa, Greg Watanabe and Annie Yee. (Nov. 20-23). Beth Henley's The Lucky Spot stars Jean Smart and Kurtwood Smith, in a 1938 Christmas Eve tale of a young Louisiana woman pregnant with an aspiring nightclub owner's child. Neither are prepared for the arrival of the father's wife, a dangerous beauty just let out of jail. (Jan. 8-11).
While An Ideal Husband is still enjoying an ideal run on Broadway, a polished English cast consisting of Rosalind Ayres, Jacqueline Bisset, Brian Cox, Ken Danziger, Martin Jarvis, and Miriam Margolyes will star in the L.A. Theatre Works production. The 1895 comedy is also timely as it explores the plight of a promising young politician who tries to hide a secret from his past. (Jan. 22-25).
Three Viewings is a recent work by Jeffrey Hatcher, starring Bruce Davidson, Rue McClanahan, and Laura San Giacomo. It consists of three plays, set over a casket in a funeral parlor in a small, midwestern town. We meet a respectable married mortician, an upper class, attractive middle-aged lady thief, and a newly widowed suburban matron (Feb. 12-15).
The series concludes with The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, dramatized by David Fishelson. Edward Asner, Kate Asner, Harry Hamlin, Kaitlin Hopkins, Shirley Knight, Robert Machray, and Siri O'Neal star in this 1860 Russian drama which depicts a young prince returning to high society, after 15 years in a Swiss institute for epilepsy treatment. He is considered an idiot until two of the most attractive women enter into a vicious competition for his affections.
L.A. Theatre Works calls itself "a radio and theatre laboratory dedicated to the discovery, presentation, and preservation of new plays and new interpretations of classic works." "The Play's The Thing" has received the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Gold and Silver Awards, an International Sony Award and two New York Festival Awards. A catalogue of their plays, books and short stories are available by calling (800) 708-8863.
All productions begin at 8 PM in the Doubletree Guest Suites hotel in Santa Monica. Subscriptions are available. For tickets or more information, call the L.A. Theatre Works Box Office at (310) 827-0889.
-- By Blair Glaser