Cast Set for On the Verge, Westport Country Playhouse 2006 Opener

News   Cast Set for On the Verge, Westport Country Playhouse 2006 Opener The Westport Country Playhouse has cast its first production of Eric Overmeyer's On the Verge, its first show of the 2006 season.

Laiona Michelle, Tom Beckett, Susan Bennett and Molly Wright Stuart will star in the fantastical, wordy saga of three female adventuresses, circa 1888, who journey into "Terra Incognita." Tazewell Thompson directs the March 9-25 run.

Bennett starred as Joan Plowright in the long-running Off-Broadway hit, Orson's Shadow. Beckett is well remembered for his turn in Off-Broadway's Travels With My Aunt, a performance which won him Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards.

Michelle received a Best Lead Actress Helen Hayes Award nomination in 2005 for Yellowman at Arena Stage and a Barrymore Award for Constant Star at Delaware Theatre Company. Stuart's regional theatre credits include Pride and Prejudice, The Underpants, The Servant of Two Masters, Henry V and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Set design is by Donald Eastman, costume design by Carrie Robbins, lighting design by Robert Wierzel and original music and sound design by Fabian Obispo.

* The first season at Westport Country Playhouse under new artistic director Tazewell Thompson will include plays by Thompson himself, a new musical featuring the songs of Kurt Weill, and a seldom-seen Arthur Miller play directed by Gregory Mosher. Next after Verge is Jam & Spice, a world premiere featuring the theatre music of Kurt Weill, and conceived by Tazewell Thompson and Dianne Adams McDowell. The show, which plays June 1-18, is described as a "song and dance celebration" of Weill's work.

(The coming year is also expected to see another Weill project. Director Harold Prince and playwright Alfred Uhry have fashioned a new musical titled LoveMusik about composer Weill and his wife, actress Lotte Lenya. It will have a regional tryout sometime in 2006 before arriving in New York, Variety reported. Michael Cerveris starred as Weill and Ann Morrison as Lenya in a recent Manhattan workshop.)

The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey, a regional staple in recent seasons, will arrive June 22-July 9. The story of two farmers and World War II veterans and the young actor who arrives at their house does not yet have a director.

The July 13-30 slot will be filled by Thompson's own Constant Star. The show is a history of Ida B. Wells, born a slave in 1860s Mississippi, who grew to become a pioneer of civil and women's rights. It features some of America's greatest human rights advocates from Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington to Susan B. Anthony and Jane Addams. Thompson will direct.

Next is a new comedy by frequent Westport playwright David Wiltse. Titled A Marriage Minuet, it promises to contain "Two couples. Marriage.  A single girl. Flirtation. Temptation. Opportunity. Infidelity. Consummation.  Satiation. Regret. Retreat. Repeat." Dates are Aug. 3-20.

Gregory Mosher will direct The Archbishop's Ceiling by Arthur Miller, Aug. 24-Sept. 10. The drama is one of Miller's most obscure, having premiered in 1977 and never run on Broadway. In the play, four famous writers and one woman who has relationships with three of them gather in an Eastern European city during the Soviet era. "The play asks the questions what happens to human beings, human behavior and relationships in a society that habitually pries and spies on its citizens, and what is the price of freedom?," according to Westport press materials.

Finally comes Old Wicked Songs by Jon Marans, a popular play during the late '90s that had an Off-Broadway run and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The comic drama about an aging European music professor and a young, arrogant piano prodigy meeting for piano lessons in Vienna will run Oct. 19-Nov. 5.

This is the first year the former summer stock house, which recently rebuilt and restored its facilities, will present a year-round schedule of plays.

For information, call (203) 227-4177 or visit the box office at 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Information about the Playhouse is also available at www.westportplayhouse.org.