Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation, filled with more dysfunctional characters and hot-button issues that a week's worth of daytime TV talk shows, is suddenly a hot ticket at Playwrights Horizons.
Strong reviews, including an embrace from The New York Times, prompted an immediate sellout following the March 14 opening and a one-week extension, to April 4. It was set to close March 28.
The comedy -- a raucous indictment of tabloid culture audiences -- has been cheered by fans of the absurdist-steeped, subversive Durang, who packs a summer-share beach house with an abuse victim, a serial killer, a drifter-exhibitionist, a sex addict and a psychotic, alcoholic matron who is part Auntie Mame and part Ethel Merman. At the center of the mayhem is Betty (played by Kellie Overbey), who just wanted some quiet.
Betty is not amused to discover that in addition to her housemates, there is a laughtrack and audience commentary coming from the ceiling.
Since previews began Feb. 19, Betty's Summer Vacation, directed by Nicholas Martin, has also had its detractors: Some theatregoers have walked out of the play, which is liberally spiced with references to rape, incest, dismemberment and more. Nevertheless, the Times review of the bigger-than-life, wild comedy are prompting commercial producers to ask the question, "Can Summer go on and on...?"
The cast includes Guy Boyd (Sex and Longing), Geneva Carr, Nat DeWolf, Jack Ferver, Julie Lund, Kristine Nielsen (Dog Opera), Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. and Troy Sostillio (Corpus Christi, Gross Indecency).
Overbey recently appeared in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company Broadway production of Sam Shepard's Buried Child.
Designers are Thomas Lynch (scenic), Michael Krass (costumes), Kevin Adams (lighting) and Kurt B. Kellenberger (sound).
Sex and Longing also dealt with sex addiction, along with American Puritanism and governmental and religious hypocrisy. The Lincoln Center production was not embraced by critics and had a short run at Broadway's Cort Theatre.
Other works by the playwright, whose comedies often push the dark limits of farce, include Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, The Actor's Nightmare, Nina in the Morning, Wanda's Visit, A Stye of the Eye, Mrs. Sorken and History of the American Film.
In addition to Full Gallop, Martin has directed The Rehearsal at the Roundabout Theatre Company and Overtime at Manhattan Theatre Club. In summer 1998, he piloted both The Matchmaker and Jonathan Marc Sherman's new Evolution at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Betty's Summer Vacation tickets are $37.50. Playwrights Horizons is at 416 W. 42nd St. For information, call (212) 279-4200.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson and David Lefkowitz