Dedicating its 1997-98 season to "the American Playwright," Houston, TX's Alley Theatre has chosen two monumental works of the century, Death Of The Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night, alongside recent plays by Paula Vogel and August Wilson, and a world premiere by Tony Kushner.
"In addition to revitalized stagings of classic American plays, the Alley seeks to present the brightest and newest American works to our audiences," said artistic director Gregory Boyd, announcing the season.
Kushner's play is titled, Hydriotaphia, or, The Death Of Dr. Browne, and concerns the last hours of 17th century author Sir Thomas Browne, considered by his contemporaries to be the greatest mind since William Shakespeare. Alley associate artist Michael Wilson, who staged Kushner's Angels In America at the theatre, directs the comedy/drama, which begins previews March 27, 1998, opens April 1, 1998 and runs to April 25, 1998. Other Kushner plays include Slavs!, an adaptation of Corneille's Illusion and A Bright Room Called Day.
Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman opens Oct. 8 and stars Ralph Waite as Willy Loman, the salesman who finds his career on the wane and his past dalliances catching up with him. The 1949 drama won the Pulitzer Prize and has featured Lee J. Cobb and Dustin Hoffman as previous Lomans. Waite is best known for his role on TV's "The Waltons" and for starring in Horton Foote's The Young Man From Atlanta at the Alley and Off-Broadway. Death Of A Salesman, directed by David Wheeler, runs Oct. 3-Nov. 2.
Perhaps the greatest of all American plays, Long Day's Journey Into Night opens Feb. 25, 1998 and will feature Ellen Burstyn as Mrs. Tyrone, the drug-addled mother of tubercular Edmond and dissipated Jamie, and wife of stingy husband, James. Burstyn won an Oscar for her work in film's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and a Tony for starring on Broadway in Same Time Next Year. Her most recent Broadway appearance was the religious drama, Sacrilege. Other plays by O'Neill include Hughie, Rope and The Iceman Cometh. Michael Wilson directs Long Day's Journey Into Night, which begins previews Feb. 20, 1998, opens Feb. 25, 1998 and runs to March 15, 1998. Also on tap for the Alley season are August Wilson's Seven Guitars and Paula Vogel's How I Learned To Drive. Wilson's drama -- the seventh in his cycle of plays exploring the African-American experience in this century -- tells of a blues guitarist buoyed by the chance of a recording contract in Chicago, until greed brings him down. Other plays by Wilson include Fences, Jitney and The Piano Lesson. Long-time collaborator Lloyd Richards will direct Seven Guitars in a co-production with Seattle Rep. The play opens Feb. 18, 1998, and runs to March 14, 1998. Previews begin Feb. 13.
Currently Off-Broadway at the Century Theatre, Paula Vogel's How I Learned To Drive will have its Southwest premiere May 22-June 14, 1998, with an opening May 27, 1998. Vogel's drama of a young girl's unhealthy relationship with her charming but alcoholic uncle, won the 1997 Lucille Lortel and NY Drama Critics Circle Awards for best play. Other Vogel plays include The Baltimore Waltz (staged by Alley in 1992), Hot N' Throbbin and Desdemona.
Another Off-Broadway show, Mere Mortals And Others, will be part of the Alley Season. David Ives' collection of six comic one-acts follows in the footsteps of his other one-act collection, All In The Timing. Mortals begins previews Oct. 17, opens Oct. 22 and runs to Nov. 9.
More crazy comedy ensues with Noises Off, Michael Frayn's 1982 farce of life backstage for a second rate theatre company stuck in a third rate play. Artistic director Boyd will direct the piece, May 8-June 7, 1998, with an opening set for May 13, 1998.
Patrick Hamilton's Angel Street will also be part of the season. A thriller (renamed "Gaslight" for the movies), Angel Street tells of a woman whose husband questions her sanity. Artistic director Boyd will stage the drama, opening Jan. 14, 1998, and running Jan. 9-Feb. 7, 1998.
For the holidays, Michael Wilson's adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol returns for the ninth time, Nov. 28-Dec. 28. Subtitled "A Ghost Story Of Christmas, Carol will be directed by Wilson and features more than 40 actors.
Winner of the 1996 Tony for outstanding regional theatre (as recommended by the American Theatre Critics Association), the Alley Theatre has produced such works as 1990's Jekyll & Hyde (which later toured and now runs on Broadway), and Robert Wilson's Hamlet, A Monologue. In 1998, they will co-produce a "lost" Tennessee Williams work, Not About Nightingales, with London's National Thaetre.
--By David Lefkowitz