Though its current season is barely halfway through, FL's Coconut Grove Playhouse has already announced its 1998-99 line-up. Included will be the U.S. premiere of a London drama, a current Off-Broadway hit and a Pulitzer-winning comedy.
Dates haven't been set for the shows, but first up will be Mark Saltzman's The Tin Pan Alley Rag, which imagines a fictitious meeting between Scott Joplin and Irving Berlin. Alternately clashing and bonding, the two nonetheless have time to share such tunes as "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "Maple Leaf Rag."
And speaking of "Rags," the musical of that title is also on the schedule. With lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, music by Charles Strouse and a book by Joseph Stein, Rags tells of Russian-Jewish immigrants trying to scrape by in America. After a disappointing Broadway run, Rags' reputation was strengthened by a well-received revival at the American Jewish Theatre.
Also on Coconut Grove's schedule is Kay Mellor's London hit, A Passionate Woman, having its American premiere at Coconut Grove. In the comedy/drama, a middle-aged woman would rather straighten up her attic -- and deal with its memories -- than come to her son's wedding.
An even stranger woman will be on view in As Bees In Honey Drown, Douglas Carter Beane's acclaimed Off-Broadway comedy, about a young author who finds his life -- and bankbook -- in a spin after encountering one Alexa Vere de Veer. A more passive femme is found in The Heidi Chronicles, Wendy Wasserstein's award-laden comedy, of a woman trying to find meaning in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
On the Encore Room second stage, Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan's Chicago and NY phenomenon, Late Nite Catechism, brings its straight-talking but still hilarious nun to lecture and answer questions about Catholicism. Also arriving at the second stage will be Arien Dorfman's Death and the Maiden, a dark revenge thriller, wherein a woman encounters her former torturer.
For subscriptions ($160-$265) and information on the Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Highway, Miami, call (305) 446-3857.
As for the rest of this season, upcoming at Coconut Grove will be:
* March 10-Apr. 5, After Play, Anne Meara's bittersweet comedy of a pair of couples who meet for an evening of Broadway and dinner.
* April 14-May 3: An Evening With Jerry Herman. A career overview with the composer of such Broadway shows as Hello, Dolly!, The Grand Tour and Mack And Mabel. Lee Roy Reams and Florence Lacey will join Herman in the revue, which replaces the previously announced, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. (By the way, Herman recently underwent triple bypass surgery but is recovering nicely and considering bringing a version of this show to Broadway.)
* May 8-31: To Kill A Mockingbird, adapted by Christopher Sergel from Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning book about a young girl named Scout, her attorney father, and the black man he defends in a Southern hamlet, circa 1930.
* Feb-May: Late Nite Catechism, also in the Encore Room space. It's the Chicago and Off-Broadway hit, by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan. Catechism is structured like a religion class, with "Sister" discussing the saints and answering questions about Catholicism.
For information on subscriptions or single ticket options at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, call (305) 446-3857.
-- By David Lefkowitz