Thrice extended at Chicago's Goodman Studio Theatre, Rebecca Gilman's comedy Spinning Into Butter now officially opens in New York City. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, the show arrived at Lincoln Center Theatre's Off-Broadway venue, the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, June 29, and is officially unveiled July 26 for a run through Sept. 17.
Matt DeCaro (Northlight's The Old Neighborhood) is the sole Chicago cast-member in the New York company, which features Hope Davis (The Food Chain, filmdom's "Next Stop, Wonderland") and Wrong Mountain's Daniel Jenkins. Also in the cast are Steven Pasquale, Jai Rodriguez, Henry Strozier and Brenda Wehle.
Spinning Into Butter exposes the cosmetic and sometimes destructive political correctness that erupts on a small Vermont college campus when an African-American student finds several racist notes pinned to his door. Davis plays a new dean assigned to investigate the incident. The second act of the drama reportedly features an audience silencing, 20-minute monologue in which Davis' character admits her latent racism to a stunned colleague.
The title of the play is taken from a passage in the once popular, now infamous children's book "Little Black Sambo," where several tigers chase each other around a tree, eventually dissolving into butter.
Gilman, the author of The Glory of Living, was commissioned by the Goodman for this play through a 1997 Scott McPherson Award. McPherson is the late author of Marvin's Room, which had its premiere at the Goodman Theatre. Designing the Newhouse mounting are John Lee Beatty (sets), Brian MacDevitt (lighting), Jess Goldstein (costumes) and Dan Moses Schreier (sound). Schreier also contributes original music to the piece.
For information on Spinning Into Butter at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, 150 West 65th Street, call (212) 239-6200.
After Gilman's Butter melts away, the next Newhouse show will be Wendy Wasserstein's Old Money, opening in early December. Mark Brokaw (How I Learned To Drive, The Dying Gaul) directs this new play by the author of The Sisters Rosensweig and An American Daughter, both previous LCT productions.
Following Old Money, as previously reported, Ethan Hawke may be the latest high-profile actor to join the cast of the seemingly star studded Lincoln Center Theater production of Jon Robin Baitz's new play, Ten Unknowns. Jason Robards and "ER"'s Julianna Margulies had already apparently been announced -- although LCT spokesperson Philip Rinaldi cautioned (June 8) that "no casting has been confirmed."
Hawke, a film star whose credits include "Before Sunrise" and "Hamlet," occasionally returns to the stage, most recently in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's original Chicago revival of Sam Shepard's Buried Child. (That staging eventually transferred to Broadway, though without Hawke.) On Broadway, Hawke has appeared in The Seagull. The actor recently dismantled his own Malaparte Theatre Company, which presented short runs of new and old plays in the late '80s and early '90s. Hawke told New York Magazine that he "hoped" to be doing the play. Ten Unknowns will open Feb. 26, 2001, and run through April 15.
In the play, directed by Daniel Sullivan, Robards will play a once promising, now obscure painter, living in Mexico. Margulies is a researcher studying a breed of frog that is on the verge of extinction. The two meet and become lovers.
Baitz's A Fair Country was seen at LCT a few seasons back. Since then, Manhattan Theatre Club has staged his Mizlansky/Zilinsky, while his adaptation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler was seen in L.A., in a staging starring Annette Bening. Baitz's other works include The Film Society and The Substance of Fire.
Robards' last New York appearance was in Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theatre. Other recent stage turns have included Harold Pinter's Moonlight and Israel Horowitz's Park the Car in Harvard Yard. Robards is famous for creating or recreating many characters in the O'Neill canon, including Long Day's Journey Into Night and The Iceman Cometh. He also appeared in the original production of Arthur Miller's After the Fall and won a Tony for his performance in The Disenchanted.
Rounding out the Newhouse's 2000-01 roster will be John Guare's Chaucer in Rome, seen at the Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer. Guare's Six Degrees of Separation, The House of Blue Leaves and Four Baboons Adoring the Sun were all done at the Lincoln Center.
Chaucer in Rome boasts a typically theatrical, quasi-absurdist Guare plot, in which the story of a painter trying to find himself in the Eternal City is matched with the tale of a Queens family searching for their son.
Polly Holliday, Bruce Norris, Lee Wilkof and B.D. Wong starred in the Williamstown production, directed by Nicholas Martin. Holliday, Norris and Wong are all veterans of the Signature's 1998-99 season, which was dedicated to Guare's work. Holliday and Norris starred in the company's revival of Marco Polo Sings a Solo, and Wong replaced David Aaron Baker in the last several performances of Bosoms and Neglect.
-- By Robert Simonson