Leading ladies Blair Brown, Marsha Mason and Annabella Sciorra will summer in Williamstown this year. The actresses are among the new names announced for the revered seasonal theatre festival in Massachusetts.
They will be joined by theatre stalwarts Simon Jones (Passion Play), Paxton Whitehead (Suite in Two Keys), Jessica Stone (The Smell of the Kill), Rob Campbell (Mad Forest) and Tate Donovan (Lobby Hero).
Brown won a Tony Award for Copenhagen on Broadway, where she also appeared in Cabaret and Arcadia. She will play Donna Lucia is WTF's new remounting of the musical Where's Charley?. As previously reported by Playbill On-Line, Christopher Fitzgerald will play the demanding title role. Jones will be Sir Francis Chesney, Whitehead will be Mr. Spettigue and Stone will be Amy (as in "Once in Love With Amy," the show's best known tune).
Also in the cast are Tom Lacey as Brassett, Sarah Schmidt as Kitty Verdun and David Turner as Jack Chesney.
Christopher Fitzgerald plays the part created by Ray Bolger. Fitzgerald and Williamstown are well acquainted. The comic actor appeared in The Winter's Tale and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme at the 2001 festival. The Charley role, however, provides Fitzgerald—who acted Off-Broadway in Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi and Stephen Sondheim's Saturday Night—with his most challenging role to date, and an open invitation to exploit his skills as an improvisor and cut-up. George Abbott and Frank Loesser's Where's Charley opens the Main Stage season on June 19.
Loesser made his Broadway debut with this 1948 musical adaptation of the classic London farce by Brandon Thomas, in which an Oxford undergraduate disguises himself as his pal's aunt, so that he and his friends might be properly chaperoned when some lady friends come to call.
Ray Bolger played the title role in the original. He is widely credited with saving the show, which was not well received. In particular, he made a hit out of the score's most enduring number, "Once in Love with Amy." Bolger would sing, dance, and cut up—even encourage the audience to sing along—during the song each night. Theatregoers and critics were delighted with Bolger and the show has a long run.
Casting has also been announced for David Eldridge's Under the Blue Sky, about "the clumsy love lives of high school teachers." Campbell, Donovan, Sciorra and Mason head the cast, which also features Vera Farmiga and Michael Gaston. John Erman directs.
Sciorra is best known for her films, which include "Jungle Fever" and "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle." Recently, however, she's paid visits to Off Broadway in Shyster and The Vagina Monologues. Mason, too, is primarily a film animal, the star of such pictures as "The Goodbye Girl" and "Cinderella Liberty."
In other casting news, a spokesperson confirmed Lauren Graham's involvement in Kaufman and Hart's Once in a Lifetime. Graham stars in the television series, "The Gilmore Girls." No other casting for the show has been confirmed, though such names as Dylan Baker, Kristine Nielsen, Lewis J. Stadlen, Mary Catherine Garrison and Kelly Overbey have been mentioned, as well as Jenny Bacon, Marin Hinkle, Diane Venora, Ron Leibman, Ned Eisenberg, Larry Block and Sol Frieder. The latter seven are conncected to Donald Margulies' God of Vengeance, according to sources. Baker, Nielsen and Garrsion were part of the 2001 festival.
New works by playwrights Alfred Uhry, Cheryl West and Eric Bogosian will grace the Williamstown Theatre Festival's smaller Nikos Stage in 2002, while the Main Stage will be filled with revivals of classic comedies by Kaufman and Hart and Joe Orton, as well as a new look at the seldom-seen musical, Where's Charley?
The season will run from June 12-Aug. 25.
The ever popular Kaufman and Hart Hollywood spoof Once in a Lifetime follows, under the direction of Michael Grief. Next comes a John Tillinger-directed revival of Joe Orton's black, bristling farce, Loot. The assignment is significant, as Tillinger largely built his reputation on a series of excellent Orton revivals in the 1980s, including a production of Loot which reached Broadway. The show, starring Zoe Wanamaker and Joseph Maher, earned Tillinger a Tony nomination as best director.
The Main Stage season will also feature Donald Margulies' latest, God of Vengeance. As in a previous staging at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre, Gordon Edelstein directs.
Williamstown workshopped God of Vengeance in 2001. The adaptation of the Yiddish classic premiered at A Contemporary Theatre in April 2000.
God is Margulies first new work since the playwright won the Pulitzer Prize for Dinner with Friends. The turn-of-the-century drama centers on a father, devoted to preserving his daughter's innocence in his home and increasing his reputation as an honorable man in the community, even as he runs a brothel in the basement. When the 1906 play was first translated into English in 1923 and performed at the Apollo Theatre in New York City, the producer, theatre owner and cast were arrested and found guilty of presenting an "immoral" entertainment.
The Main Stage season will conclude with a "mini-festival" celebrating the "art of theatre and storytelling." The program includes three attractions: For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, starring Olympia Dukakis, directed by Carey Perloff; A Distant Country Called Youth, adapted from the letters of Tennessee Williams and directed by Steve Lawson; and Lackawanna Blues, the well-traveled memory piece by and starring Ruben Santiago-Hudson.
The Nikos Stage season will commence with the U.S. premiere of British playwright David Eldridge's Under the Blue Sky on June 12. Next comes Moving Picture, a premiere by Dan O'Brien set in the 1888 laboratory of Thomas Edison. At the helm is Williamstown fave Darko Tresnjak (last season's The Winter's Tale).
The Nikos line-up will conclude with three significant premieres. First is Birdie Blue, the latest by Cheryl West (Jar the Floor). The two-hander is described as a "poignant family portrait." Marion McClinton, who made a success out of the Off-Broadway bow of Jar the Floor, will direct.
Eric Bogosian, whose Humpty Dumpty is currently enjoying its debut at the McCarter Theatre, will unveil yet another new work at Williamstown in the form of The Red Angel. This drama appears to venture into Oleanna territory with its look at a university professor's "psycho-sexual" standoff with an alluring student. No director has been named.
Another teacher-student relationship is explored in Without Walls, something new by Alfred Uhry (The Last Night of Ballyhoo). The instructor is Morocco Hempfill, an African-American drama teacher. The pupil is Anton, who has been newly transferred to Hemphill's school. Uhry told the New York Times that the piece was inspired by his experiences as an English and drama teacher on the Upper West Side in the 1970s. Christopher Ashley directs.
For ticket information, call (413) 458-3200.
—By Robert Simonson