Even during its leanest years, the Cape Playhouse has always attracted a star or two for each of its summer seasons. But the 2003 line-up has yielded a bumper crop of names.
Philip Bosco, Anita Gillette, Kathie Lee Gifford and Malachy McCourt are a few of the performers who will grace the Dennis, MA, summer stock stage. The season will feature plays old and new by Bill C. Davis, Charles Busch, Gore Vidal, Rupert Holmes and Marcia J. Monbleau.
The roster begins with a revival of Bill C. Davis' best known play, Mass Appeal, running June 17-29. Author, actor and raconteur Malachy McCourt and Jason Wiles star.
Next comes Thumbs (July 1-13), the new thriller by Rupert Holmes. Thumbs debuted earlier this year at the Helen Hayes Theatre Company in Nyack, NY. As at the Hayes, Kathie Lee Gifford and Diana Canova will star.
The play concerns two women from different walks of life who come face to face with a (naturally) "devilishly clever" murderer. "I tried to do something that hadn't been done before," Holmes told Playbill On-Line. "In this form" — meaning the thriller, a genre Holmes admits to being smitten with — "there are lots of showcases for two men, but not many for two women." Gifford plays "a delightfully devious diva" who once had a thriving career in films, then slumped, and is now making a comeback in television. The other major character, played by Diana Canova (of "Soap" fame), is a female Sheriff in the small Vermont town where the play is set (there is an isolated cabin involved, rest assured). The Sheriff is on the trail of a serial killer, whose perverse predilection — he cuts off people's thumbs — gives the play its title. Holmes called Thumbs "a mystery comedy." "It's not just a whodunnit, but a whydunnit," added Holmes.
Thumbs may travel to another theatre following its Cape Playhouse bow; details are yet to be worked out.
The Best Man by Gore Vidal, which follows, boasts the best cast of the Cape season: Philip Bosco (Copenhagen), Anita Gillette (Encores!' Bloomer Girl), Billy Campbell (TV's "Once and Again"), William Moses and Celia Weston (The Last Night of Ballyhoo). The political drama had a Broadway revival a couple years ago.
The season continues with the Gershwin musical My One and Only with John Scherer and Jeanna Scheweppe (July 29-Aug. 10); the regional premiere of Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife (Aug. 12-24) with Marj Dusay, David Hedison and Robin Strasser; the WWII revue Swingtime Canteen (Aug. 26-Sept. 7); and oldfriends.com (Sept. 10-15) by Cape Cod playwright Marcia J. Monbleau.
The last is a rare world premiere for the Cape Playhouse. oldfriends.com is a modern spin on plays like Love Letters and 84 Charing Cross Road, with two friends corresponding across the Atlantic and across the years through e-mails. The show may have a future beyond its Dennis staging.
For ticket information, call (508) 385-3911.
—By Robert Simonson