James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, enjoying an extended mounting at Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, will conclude its run there on June 23. The drama, a co-production with the Goodman Theatre in Chicago (where it also extended), began performances May 18.
Chuck Smith directs the 1954 work about Sister Margaret Alexander, who risks losing her Harlem church and her son when her vagabond, jazz musician husband suddenly returns home.
James Baldwin (1924-87) is best known for his novels, such as "Giovanni's Room," and his essays, including the landmark "The Fire Next Time." The Amen Corner is one of only two plays he wrote. It was produced at Howard University in 1954 and on Broadway in 1965. His other work for the stage, Blues for Mister Charlie, bowed in New York City in 1964, and was spared a quick closure by a donation from scions of the Rockefeller family and an extraordinary ad campaign in the New York papers, signed by the leading artists and intellectuals of the day.
Huntington Theatre Company artistic director Nicholas Martin is making good on his promise to bring leading theatre actors and film stars to the Boston theatre he took command of in fall 2000. The fall 2001 production of Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation—a hit when Martin directed it Off-Broadway in 1999—will feature its original stars, Kellie Overbey and Kristine Nielsen. Additionally, a mounting of Tennessee Williams' Camino Real, slated for January 2002, will star Ethan Hawke and Tony winner Blair Brown (Copenhagen). Martin directed the peculiar Williams piece at the Williamstown Theatre Festival a couple seasons ago. Betty's Summer Vacation represented playwright Christopher Durang's biggest critical success in years when it premiered at Playwright Horizons, under Martin's direction. Though several attempts were made to transfer the comedy to a commercial run, the show closed after an extended run at PH and never re-opened. Though the entire cast shined, Kellie Overbey (as the innocent, decent Betty) and Kristine Nielsen (as a crazed, motormouthed matron) were thought to be critical to the success of the scathingly funny satire.
James Joyce's The Dead will open the Huntington season, as previously announced. It also began life at Playwrights Horizons. The Richard Nelson musical adaptation of James Joyce's famous short story transferred to Broadway and earned a few Tony nominations. Nelson will repeat his work as director. The final slot of the season will be filled by Frank McGuiness's Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. Martin will again direct, giving him charge of three of the five Huntington productions offered in the 2001-02 season.
The fourth play in the five play line-up is yet to be announced. Under consideration are O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms, Russell Lees' Nixon's Nixon, Charlayne Woodard's In Real Life and Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca.
—By Robert Simonson