Wilford Brimley, known for his crustily avuncular roles in such films as Cocoon and Absence of Malice, on TV in "Our House" and in a well-remembered series of oatmeal commercials, will be coming to New York this fall in a revival of Robert Sherwood's 1935 thriller, The Petrified Forest. George Loros will direct the play, beginning previews at the Pantheon Theatre Oct. 19, opening there Oct. 24 and running Wed-Sun through Nov. 18.
Brimley plays Gramps Maple in the drama. The rest of the cast is made up of Pantheon regulars Sergio Cacciotti (Jackie), Vincent LoRusso (Boze) and Carl Tarcangeli (the gangster Duke Mantee), with Christopher Armond likely to play Squire. LoRusso told Playbill On-Line Aug. 1 the company is negotiating with model and film/soap-opera actress Rebecca Gayheart to play the female lead. The latter's stage work includes a mounting of Last Night of Ballyhoo at L.A.'s Canon Theatre.
A killer on the loose terrorizes denizens of an Arizona gas station in the Sherwood drama, which was filmed in 1936 with a cast including Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart as desperate Duke Mantee.
Director Loros is best known for his recurring role as a mob capo on cable TV's "The Sopranos," and his other acting credits include "Serpico" and "The Rockford Files." He also directed a Three Sisters at Pantheon last year.
Now five years old, the Pantheon Theatre Company mixes old plays and new, with productions having included Look Back in Anger, Beirut, Loot and The Persecution of Arnold Patrick. Actor Brimley was one of the original members of the Los Angeles Actors' Theater (LAAT), started by Ralph Waite. He gave up performing for several years but was coaxed back to do "The China Syndrome," which started his whole second career.
The last major revival of a Sherwood play in New York was a Broadway mounting of Abe Lincoln in Illinois, starring Sam Waterston.
Tickets to The Petrified Forest haven't officially gone on sale yet, but pre-reservations for the show at the 99-seat Pantheon Theatre, 303 West 42nd Street can be made by calling (212) 582-5856.
— By David Lefkowitz