NY's Manhattan Class Company (MCC), which has produced such works as Nixon's Nixon and The Grey Zone has begun its 1998-99 season with a critical and box office hit: Wit, by Margaret Edson.
The tragic but verbally nimble drama (about an icy but verbally nimble poetry professor stricken with fourth-stage ovarian cancer) opened Sept. 17 and was scheduled to run through Oct. 4 but has already extended its run to Oct. 31. Production spokesperson Erin Dunn (of Boneau/Bryan-Brown) told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 25) the show is also considering a commercial move.
Wit won the L.A. Critics Circle Award and several Connecticut Critics Circle Awards (including Outstanding Production) for its 1997 mounting at the Long Wharf Theatre. That production, directed by Derek Anson-Jones, transferred to MCC with mostly the same cast. Previews began Sept. 9. (Wit, by the way, will also get a staging at WA's Seattle Rep in `99-00.)
Kathleen Chalfant, best known for her Tony-nominated performance as Hannah Pitt in the Broadway production of Angels in America, stars as Vivian. Also in the Long Wharf cast are Walter Charles, Aleta Mitchell, Raul Perez, Alec Phoenix, Paula Pizzi, Daniel Sarnelli, Alli Steinberg and Helen Stenborg. The director is Derek Anson Jones.
Wit is Edson's first play, based in part on her experiences working at the AIDS Inpatient Unit of the National Institutes of Health. Today Edson teaches first grade in Washington, DC. *
Feb. 10 1999, previews begin for Canadian playwright Lorena Gale's Angelique. Set in Montreal, 1734, Angelique tells of "a black slave whose inner life explodes into her community," according to MCC director of marketing and development, Jenz Kohler. The play covers her relationships with her master and her master's wife, as well as the townfolk. "Different hues and different stories collide in a very theatrical way," noted Kohler. "And there are also provocative anachronisms, such as one character saying `bada bing, bada boom.' It makes things enertainingly unsettling." No director is yet set for Angelique, which runs through Mar. 7.
Ed Napier's The English Teachers tentatively begins previews May 5 for a run through May 30, 1999. The play is set in an Appalachian House in 1960s West Virginia, when Senator Kennedy was campaigning in the area. Three generations of women are affected by the news, especially since the youngest is trying to break free of her milieu."
Another Napier work, Waiting For Rapture will be staged at the WPA Theatre by Pamela Berlin.
Spokesperson Kohler noted that all three plays at MCC this season offer "great roles for actresses, especially those of a certain age who have trouble finding good parts written for them."
Though Manhattan Class Company doesn't have an artistic director, it's run by two executive directors, Robert LuPone (currently on Broadway in A View From The Bridge) and Bernard Telsey (a well-known casting director).
For information about shows Manhattan Class Company, 120 West 28th St, call (212) 727-7722.
-- By David Lefkowitz