Comic Potential Laughs Run Out Jan. 7 at MTC; Bway Eyed But Hopes Died

News   Comic Potential Laughs Run Out Jan. 7 at MTC; Bway Eyed But Hopes Died The Manhattan Theatre Club staging of Alan Ayckbourn's dark comedy, Comic Potential, will stick around a week longer than expected at the nonprofit resident theatre, to Jan. 7, but it looks like the critically-embraced show will end its immediate New York life there.

The Manhattan Theatre Club staging of Alan Ayckbourn's dark comedy, Comic Potential, will stick around a week longer than expected at the nonprofit resident theatre, to Jan. 7, but it looks like the critically-embraced show will end its immediate New York life there.

There was interest in moving the show to a Broadway venue before the end of the 2000-2001 season in late April 2001, but the lack of available theatres in another log-jammed legit season is preventing that, according to sources in the theatre community. British actress Janie Dee, who made her New York stage debut in the role that won her London's Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics Circle awards, was willing to return to Manhattan for a commercial extension playing a doe-eyed futuristic robot-actor. The large set and the lack of a theatre crushed any hope of Comic Potential meeting its commercial potential. The MTC run is sold out.

A spokesperson for the production said the staging ends Jan. 7 and there was no further word about a commercial run for the American premiere, which opened Off-Broadway Nov. 16 at MTC's Stage I. Previews began Oct. 24. Performances were originally to continue only to Dec. 31.

Actress Robin Moseley is leaving the staging for a prior commitment and Rose Stockton is stepping into her role.

Solid reviews — including a rave from critic John Simon — prompted speculation that yet another MTC work was poised for a commercial move. Fuddy Meers, Proof, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and A Class Act, which all originated at MTC in the past year, moved to commercial runs (A Class Act opens in spring 2001). *

John Tillinger directs Comic Potential, helming a cast that includes Alexander Chaplin ("Spin City"), John Curless, MacIntyre Dixon (Getting & Spending), Carson Elrod, Peter Michael Goetz (Brighton Beach Memoirs), Mercedes Herrero (The Laramie Project), Kristine Nielsen (Betty's Summer Vacation) and Kellie Overbey (Betty's Summer Vacation).

The play, set in the future, offers a world where actors and "actoids" are indistinguishable. An aspiring screenwriter gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself smitten with his almost-human leading lady.

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Designers are John Lee Beatty (set), Jane Greenwood (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Bruce Ellman (sound).

Janie Dee also received the Olivier Award for her performance as Carrie in the Nicholas Hytner production of Carousel at the Royal National Theatre.

MTC produces the New York premiere of Comic Potential by special arrangement with Michael Codron.

Ayckbourn is the author of over 50 plays, most of which received their first performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, England, where he is artistic director. His works include House and Garden, Things We Do for Love, Relatively Speaking, Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests, Bedroom Farce, Just Between Ourselves, A Chorus of Disapproval, Communicating Doors, Man of the Moment and, with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical By Jeeves (which gets an American staging in early 2001 at Pittsburgh Public Theater).

Comic Potential is the fourth play by Ayckbourn at MTC following Absent Friends, Woman In Mind and A Small Family Business.

Tillinger's directing credits include Broadway's Night Must Fall, Getting & Spending, The Sunshine Boys, Inherit the Wind, Broken Glass, The Price, Three Men on a Horse, Sweet Sue, Loot!, Corpse!, The Golden Age and Solomon's Child, as well as Off-Broadway's The Exact Center of the Universe, The Memory of Water; Dealer's Choice; Sylvia, A Perfect Ganesh; The Last Yankee, Lips Together, Teeth Apart, After the Fall, Breaking Legs, The Lisbon Traviata, Urban Blight, The Film Society, Another Antigone, Little Murders; The Perfect Party, It's Only a Play, Serenading Louie, Entertaining Mr. Sloane.

Tickets are $55. MTC Stage I and II are at City Center, 151 W. 55th Street. For information, call (212) 581-1212 or visit the web site at www.manhattantheatreclub.com.

— By Kenneth Jones