In a theatre co-founded by playwright David Mamet, it had to happen sometime -- a whole season of Mametian bounty.
New York's Atlantic Theatre Company, which has dedicated 1999-2000 to the work of Mamet, will get its year-long homage to its founding father officially underway with the Oct. 20 opening of the double bill of The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness, in previews since Sept. 29.
Water Engine, first written for the radio, is about a doomed inventor who discovers an engine that runs on water. The cast features Steven Goldstein, Jordan Lage, Mary McCann -- all company members -- as well as Maggie Kiley, Carol John Matusovich, Josh Stamberg and Mary Ann Urbano.
Mr. Happiness, meanwhile, is about a sort of Mr. Lonelyhearts of early radio, with Bob Balaban playing the advice-giver. Karen Kohlhaas will direct the evening, which runs through Nov. 21, with an opening in mid October.
Balaban is all over the place lately, directing Vick's Boy for Off Broadway's Rattlestick Productions, and Arthur Kopit's upcoming Y2K for Manhattan Theatre Club. [See related PBOL feature.] *
The second slot in the Atlantic season will be filled by Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Mamet's early success about the rules of attraction, circa mid-'70s, and The Duck Variations, a one-act about the observations of two old men sitting on a park bench.
Hilary Hinckle will direct the evening, which begins Dec. 16 and opens Jan. 13, 2000.
The Mamet season will continue with a revival of what is, perhaps, the playwright's greatest work, American Buffalo, staged by Neil Pepe. The production will begin performances March 3, 2000 and open March 16. William H. Macy, Atlantic's co-founder, will star. Lately, Macy has made a big name for himself in such films as "Fargo" and "Mystery Men." He last appeared on the New York stage in Mamet's Oleanna.
Buffalo will first visit London's Donmar Warehouse before coming to the Atlantic.
The last offering of the season will be Ghost Stories, a double bill made up of The Shawl and No One Will Be Immune. Performances will being May 16, 2000, for a June 1 opening. The Shawl was first performed at the Goodman Theater in 1985, and tells of a woman who turns into a psychic after her mother dies. No One is about a man's disturbing tale of why he forced a plane to return to its gate.
The Atlantic also plans to present something improbably called "Mamet for Kids," a series of children's plays by the usually very-adult playwright. Also of offer will be a spring festival of Mamet sketches, performed by Atlantic's acting students as a late-night cabaret.
Mamet co-founded the Atlantic Theatre Company with actor and director Macy. In the past, the troupe has staged several Mamet works, but lately it has concentrated on British plays such as The Beauty Queen on Leenane and Mojo, as well as new American dramas like The Cider House Rules and Minutes from the Blue Route.
Other Mamet plays include The Old Neighborhood, The Cryptogram, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross, Oleanna, Speed-the-Plow and The Woods. Mamet's latest film "The Winslow Boy" recently opened to strong reviews.
-- By Robert Simonson