Baitz's Zilinski Replaces McNally's Christi At MTC

News   Baitz's Zilinski Replaces McNally's Christi At MTC
 
When New York's Manhattan Theatre Club announced is 1997-98 season, hopes were high that Terrence McNally's oft-postponed new drama, Corpus Christi, would finally reach the stage. Though intended to play at the theatre in Feb. 1998, Corpus Christi has now been officially canceled once again and replaced by a reworking of Jon Robin Baitz's first play, Mizlanski-Zilinksi, Or, Schmucks. The irony here is that Baitz's real-life steady, Joe Mantello, was scheduled to direct Christi. He will now stage M/Z.

When New York's Manhattan Theatre Club announced is 1997-98 season, hopes were high that Terrence McNally's oft-postponed new drama, Corpus Christi, would finally reach the stage. Though intended to play at the theatre in Feb. 1998, Corpus Christi has now been officially canceled once again and replaced by a reworking of Jon Robin Baitz's first play, Mizlanski-Zilinksi, Or, Schmucks. The irony here is that Baitz's real-life steady, Joe Mantello, was scheduled to direct Christi. He will now stage M/Z.

Mantello previously directed McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! -- a staging so memorable, Mantello filed a lawsuit when a Florida theatre's production of L!V!C! seemed to mirror the MTC/Broadway version too closely. Also an actor, Mantello starred in Angels In America and The Baltimore Waltz. Other works by McNally include The Ritz, Master Class and The Lisbon Traviata. A contemporary exploration of good and evil, Corpus Christi, is set in Corpus Christi, TX, which is McNally's home town. Thirteen male actors were to comprise the Corpus corps.

The show, postponed from the 1996-97 season, ostensibly due to McNally's librettist work on Ragtime, would have been McNally's ninth at Manhattan Theatre Club. According to Reuters, the reason given for the second delay was that both McNally and Mantello felt Cristi needed further development. The show might find its way to MTC's Stage II space before it hits the mainstage.

As for Mizlansky-Zilinsky, Baitz's tale of Hollywood low-lifes is scheduled to receive a radio reading at Los Angeles Theatre Works, Oct. 22-25. That reading will feature Adam Arkin (Four Dogs & A Bone), Rob Morrow, Sydney Pollack and Harry Shearer. Ron Rifkin, who left Neil Simon's Proposals, was recently added to the cast. Mizlansky was first staged at L.A. Theatre Works in 1985 and has since been expanded by its author. According to Reuters, the MTC staging will star Ron Liebman, who's soon to appear at the Public Theatre in Tony Kushner's A Dybbuk.

Ron West, who directs Mizlansky/Zilinsky for KCRW, 89.9 FM, called the piece ideal for radio because, "the jargon used by these Hollywood schemers is so right on, so dead-perfect, the listener is immediately drawn into their world of wheeling and dealing." Shows at Manhattan Theatre Club are staged on the theatre's large, proscenium mainstage and its 3-sided Stage II (for more intimate/experimental works). Both stages are located in the company's City Center home on West 55th Street.

Here's the remaining season line-up:
Three Days Of Rain
From the author of Eastern Standard and The American Plan. Richard Greenberg's romantic comedy starts with a brother and sister's search for information about their parents' earlier lives. Directed by Evan Yionoulis and starring Patricia Clarkson, Bradley Whitford and John Slattery, Rain begins previews Oct. 21 and opens Nov. 11.

Clarkson appeared on Broadway in Eastern Standard and The House Of Blue Leaves. Slattery's an MTC veteran of such plays as The Lisbon Traviata and Greenberg's The Extra Man. Director Yionoulis staged Rain at South Coast Rep and has directed such other Greenberg works as The American Plan (MTC) and The Author's Voice.

Other Greenberg plays include Night And Her Stars and the 1989 Broadway comedy, Eastern Standard.

Designing the show are Chris Barreca (sets), Candice Cain (costumes), Donald Holder (lighting) and Red Ramona (sound). Mike Yionoulis (Evan's brother) is composing original music for the piece.

Captains Courageous ( Prev. May 5; opens June 9, 1998)

Continuing in the tradition of bringing literary classics to musical theatre (Jekyll & Hyde, Jane Eyre), this new musical is based on Rudyard Kipling's adventure novel of a young boy on the high seas. Frederick Freyer composed the music, and Patrick Cook wrote the book and lyrics for this story of Harvey Cheyne, spoiled son of a wealthy industrialist, who falls overboard and is rescued by working-class Portuguese sailors. The musical, which also uses the John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly & Dale van Every film as its source, was presented previously at Goodspeed Opera House's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.

MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow will direct the musical; Mandy Patinkin told reporters at the Tony Awards (June 1) that he's interested in starring, but production spokesman Andy Shearer told Playbill On-Line Oct. 14, "I can't confirm that he'll be doing it." A call to MTC confirmed that a reading of the musical -- with Patinkin -- took place the week of Oct. 6. However, plans for the show are still only tentative.

On season brochures and the MTC website, August Wilson's Jitney is mentioned as the fourth mainstage show, to be directed by Walter Dallas, but as of July 31, that slot remains officially undecided. The Wilson drama continues his cycle of plays tracing African Americans through the decades of this century. Jitney takes place in 1971 at a Pittsburgh gypsy cab station and follows three generations of black men struggling to survive. Wilson's other works include The Piano Lesson and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Jitney, which was written before those more famous plays, was among Wilson's first attempts at playwriting.

STAGE II

In the Stage II space, Anne Galjour's solo look at life in her native Louisiana bayou, Alligator Tales, begins previews Sept. 30 and opens Oct. 21.

Directed by Sharon Ott, Alligator Tales takes Galjour down South, deep in the heart of the Louisiana bayou -- Cajun and hurricane country.

Eyes For Consuela (prev Jan. 13, opens Feb. 3, 1998)
A new play by Sam Shepard, based on a story by Octavio Paz ("The Blue Bouquet"). When an American traveler in a Mexican jungle meets a bandit, both must make sacrifices for the women they love. One of the men collects human eyeballs. Shepard's plays include the Pulitzer-winning Buried Child, Curse Of The Starving Class, True West and Fool For Love.

Also on Stage II is the American premiere of Phyllis Nagy's comedy, Disappeared, previewing April 14, opening May 5, 1998. When a woman disappears from a noirish, Hell's Kitchen bar, intrigue and hysteria ensue. The play was a runner-up for the 1995 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which honors English-language plays written by women.

Subscribers have two options: a 7-show "Super Series" or a 5-play option of all four plays on the mainstage plus one of the Stage II works. The theatre currently boasts more than 20,000 subscribers.

For subscriptions ($185-$200) and information on Manhattan Theatre Club's upcoming season call (212) 399-3030 or check out their website at http://www.mtc-nyc.org

--By David Lefkowitz

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