Bebe Neuwirth Gets Diva-ish at Williamstown, July 11-22

News   Bebe Neuwirth Gets Diva-ish at Williamstown, July 11-22 Two tempestuous brunettes, Bebe Neuwirth and Eric Bogosian, headline Howard M. Gould's Diva, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, July 11-22. The comedy plays the smaller Nikos Stage July 11 through July 22. Neel Keller directs.

Two tempestuous brunettes, Bebe Neuwirth and Eric Bogosian, headline Howard M. Gould's Diva, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, July 11-22. The comedy plays the smaller Nikos Stage July 11 through July 22. Neel Keller directs.

The play is described as "a behind-the-scenes comedy about a spoiled yet irresistible film star who is breaking into television," in which "licentious and obnoxious behavior causes chaos on and off the set." Williamstown is calling the mounting a workshop, rather than a full-out production.

Also in the cast are John Michael Higgins (recently of Tiny Alice Off-Broadway), filmdom's Kurtwood Smith ("Citizen Ruth," "Dead Poets Society"), Darryl Theirse and C.J. Wilson.

Neuwirth won Tony Awards for Sweet Charity and Chicago, in which she gave a landmark performance as murderess Velma Kelly. She starred in The Taming of the Shrew at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 1999. But, most of her time on stage in recent years has clocked in return engagement in Chicago and, more recently, Fosse. After Diva, she will star Off-Broadway this fall in Richard Greenberg's Everett Beekin.

Bogosian is well recognized for his many take-no-prisoners one-man shows, including Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, Drinking in America and Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. On rare occasion, he takes a role in another writer's work. *

What better way to spend the summer than in a production of the coolly named A Winter's Tale? Or, so seem to think a collection of seasoned stage actors who appear in director Darko Tresnjak's new mounting of the late Shakespeare drama. The show opened on the Mainstage July 4 and runs through the 15.

John Bedford Lloyd plays Sicilian king Leontes, a man so jealous he is "his own Iago," as Harold Bloom put it. Leontes suspects his wife Hermione, played by Kate Burton (of last season's Broadway-bound Hedda Gabler), of cheating on him with his best friend, Reg. E. Cathey's Polixenes, King of Bohemia. His attendants Antigonus (Tom Bloom) Camillo (Dylan Baker) cannot persuade his otherwise; nor can Antigonus' fiery wife Paulina, here portrayed by the equally fiery Kristine Nielsen.

And so, Hermione unjustly dies and Leontes sends Antigonus with baby princess Perdita with instructions to kill her. He cannot, of course, and Perdita grows up to become Laura Benanti in the care of Bill Smitrovich's Old Shepherd and his clownish son (Christopher Fitzgerald). All is peaceful, until Perdita meets and falls for Florizel (Joel de la Fuente), who is none other than Polixenes' son. Throw in a talking statue and a bear and you've got one of the Bard's oddest and trickiest works.

Tresnjak's approach to the classic is apparently a straightforward one, according to actors in the production. The helmsman has directed widely Off-Broadway and around the New England circuit, at such theatres as the Blue Light Theatre Company (Princess Turanot), Westport Country Playhouse (Turandot again), Long Wharf Theatre (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead), Huntington Theatre Company (Amphitryon), The Vineyard Theatre (More Lies About Jerzy) and the Williamstown Theatre Company (Skin of Our Teeth).

A Winter's Tale way given an applauded mounting in Central Park last summer. Brian Kulick directed. Keith David, Henry Stram and Bill Buell starred.

*

The remaining season will run as follows:

Main Stage:

The Man Who Had All the Luck, by Arthur Miller, directed by Scott Ellis, July 18-29.
Street Scene, by Elmer Rice, directed by Michael Grief, Aug. 1-12. Rice's gritty tale of a hot June day and its impact on the inhabitants of a cramped tenement. A cast of 50 is advertised.
Philadelphia, Here I Come!, by Brian Friel, directed by Kyle Donnelly, Aug. 15-26. Friel's tale of an young Irish man (and his alter ego) trying to make peace with his homeland and his father before setting off for America.

Nikos Stage:

Diva, by Howard M. Gould, directed by Neel Keller, July 11-22. A workshop production of a comedy about a spoiled film actress trying to break into television. Bebe Neuwirth, Eric Bogosian and John Michael Higgins star.
The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter and The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, directed by Joe Mantello, July 25-Aug. 5. Two classic one-acts from two authors, one British and one American, deeply influenced by Samuel Beckett.
Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Toward the Somme, by Frank McGuinness, directed by Nicholas Martin, Aug. 9-19. A drama about eight Irish nationalists serving in World War I.

In addition to the above productions, a workshop of Beth Blatt and Jenny Giering's new musical The Mistress Cycle is planned. The show takes a look at the life of mistresses around the world and down through the years. Audra McDonald recorded Giering's "I Follow" on her album "Way Back to Paradise." Also to be workshopped is Donald Margulies' latest, God of Vengeance. The adaptation of the Yiddish classic premiered at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre in spring 2000. As in Seattle, Gordon Edelstein directs.

The festival also features a weekly reading series, with new plays being given an airing every Friday at 3 PM since June 29.

—By Robert Simonson