For those wondering why James Naughton took a break from Broadway's Chicago, the answer opens tonight, Aug. 6, in Williamstown, where the actor/director has staged a revival of Charles MacArthur's Johnny On A Spot.
Part of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Johnny On a Spot satirizes American politics with its portrayal of a brilliant campaign manager whose Senate candidate is not altogether there -- even on election day. The 1931 comedy was supposed to star Bill Irwin (Fool Moon), but Irwin got a movie role -- Scalpers, with Andy Garcia -- so Naughton has stepped into the starring role. Said WTF producer Michael Ritchie, "We wanted to find someone who would take command of the stage, be charming and funny, and have the dashing good looks which would suit the era of the play. We looked around, made some lists, but Jimmy was the ideal choice all along."
Also starring in Johnny On A Spot are Bruce MacVittie, Lee Wilkof, Lewis Black, Tom Brennan, Rod McLachlan, Joe Ponazecki, Linda Purl, Dana Reeve and David Schramm. Designing the show are Hugh Landwehr (sets), Laurie Churba (costumes), Rui Rita (lighting) and Darron L. West (sound).
Naughton has directed at Williamstown for 11 seasons now, though he's best known as a New York actor: City Of Angels, I Love My Wife, Long Day's Journey Into Night. Johnny On A Spot runs to Aug. 17.
Currently on the Other Stage is Dreading Thekla (July 30-Aug. 10), by Albert Innaurato (Gemini). Thekla concerns an unusual love triangle involving a writer, her gay best friend, and the title character. (See separate story on that show.)
Williamstown's 43rd season also included premieres by Albert Innuarato and Donald Margulies, plus a production that is the fruit of a collaboration between American and Russian playwrights. The directors selected include a mix of old time Williamstown directors such as Joanne Woodward, and newcomers like Roger Rees, who has directed Jones in The Film Society.
Playwright Jon Robin Baitz said, "What drew me to Williamstown in the first place and why I'm going back this summer is that it provides an opportunity to reconnect to a play that has been sitting dormant and to share it with an audience who is interested and charitable." Baitz's The Film Society ran through July 6 on the Mainstage.
Margulies (Sight Unseen) unveiled Broken Sleep: Three Plays on WTF's Other Stage. The production, July 16-27, featured underscoring and songs written by Michael John LaChuisa (Hello, Again).
The Mainstage will also host the American premiere of Misha's Party, Aug. 20-31, co-written by American playwright Richard Nelson and Russian playwright Alexander Gelman, which received major productions at both the Royal Shakespeare Company and Moscow Art Theatre. The serio-comic season finale takes place in Moscow, 1991, one night when a family tries to reconcile problems in the home, while outside, a putsch occurs.
WTF favorite Joanne Woodward returns to the Other Stage to direct it's season finale La Ronde, Aug. 13-24, Arthur Schnitzer's sexually charged ensemble play. Last year at WTF, Woodward received critical acclaim for her direction of Odets' Rocket to the Moon.
For tickets or more information, please call (413) 597-3400, or refer to the Williamst own Theatre Festival summer theatre listing on Playbill On-Line.