Coming off an auspicious season that saw its lauded production of How I Learned to Drive go on to a successful commercial transfer, Off Broadway's Vineyard Theatre has launched a high-profile slate of productions for 1997-98.
First up to the plate is Joan Ackerman's comedy, The Batting Cage, which opened Nov. 9 and was scheduled to run to Nov. 30 but has just been extended one week, to Dec. 7.
A hit at the 1996 Humana Festival in Louisville, where it received its world premiere, March 1996, the play was snapped up by producers David Stone and Amy Nederlander-Case. The team, in a mini version of the blind pool packages currently the rage on Broadway (Livent, Pace-Jujamcyn), offered Cage as part of an investment package that included Full Gallop and The Santaland Diaries, but until now had been unable to secure a venue for the Ackermann play. Stone, when asked about his involvement with the Vineyard's Cage, would only state that he isn't affiliated with the production during its Vineyard run.
The Batting Cage is an eccentric comedy about two sisters who meet in a hotel room in St. Augustine, FL to dispose of the ashes of a third sister.
The Humana production was helmed by fast-ascending director Lisa Peterson (Slavs!, Collected Stories) and featured an acclaimed performance by Veanne Cox; both reprise their roles at the Vineyard. While Cage was waiting to dock, Veanne Cox, Tony-nominee for the Roundabout's 1995 Company revival, squeezed in two Off-Broadway productions during the 1996-97 season: Lisa Loomer's The Waiting Room at the Vineyard and David Rabe's A Question of Mercy at New York Theater Workshop.
Also in the Batting Cage cast are Babo Harrison, Anne Pitoniak and Justin Hagan. Designing the show are Robert Brill (set), Fabian Obispo (sound), Kevin Adams (lighting) and Candice Donnelly (costumes).
Other works by Ackerman include Zara Spook And Other Lures (1990), Marcus Is Walking, Bed And Breakfast and Yonder Peasant.
Following Cage into the Vineyard will be Nicky Silver's new comedy-drama, The Maiden's Prayer (previews Jan. 13, opening Jan. 29). The play marks Silver's "official" return to the venue that presented Pterodactyls (Oct. 93) and Raised in Captivity (Feb. 95) in back-to-back productions that established the playwright as a fresh voice in American theatre. After a hit commercial production of The Food Chain and an extended run of Fit to Be Tied at Playwrights Horizons, the Vineyard hosted a two-week lab production (Ie. closed to critics) of Silver's My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine in late April.
The Maiden's Prayer is described as a play about two lifelong friends and two sisters as they navigate friendship, loss and the obsessive search for perfect love. The play will be directed by Evan Yionoulis, whose warmly received work on the music-theater piece You Don't Miss the Water was produced at the Vineyard in June.
In addition to a third mainstage production to be announced, the Vineyard season will also include two developmental lab productions: Dream True: My Life with Vernon Dexter and Creation of Humanoids.
Dream True is a music-theatre piece chronicling the friendship of two young men over several decades in America. The project will reteam director/co-writer Tina Landau (Floyd Collins) with opera composer/songwriter Ricky Ian Gordon (The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Only Heaven); their most recent collaboration, Stonewall: Night Variations, was produced outdoors at Pier 25 in New York in 1994.
Creation is Laurence Klavan's stage adaptation of the film of the same name, set in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan where human-like robots and robot-like humans work and sleep together. The play will be Klavan's first work produced at the Vineyard since contributing the book to Bed and Sofa.
For subscriptions ($60) or memberships ($25, allowing you to buy one $10 ticket for each performance) to the Vineyard Theatre, call 212-353 3874.