The Manhattan Theatre Club staging of Alan Ayckbourn's dark comedy, Comic Potential, ends Jan. 7, a week later than expected at the nonprofit resident theatre in New York City.
This production of the critically-embraced show will end its immediate New York life there, although there was interest in moving the extended run Off-Broadway show to a Broadway venue before the end of the 2000 2001 season. The lack of available theatres in another log-jammed legit season prevented 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 apparently willing to return to Manhattan for a commercial extension playing a doe-eyed futuristic robot-actor, insiders said. She became an instant audience favorite for her physical technical skills playing a robot actress who struggles with human feelings. The large set and the lack of a suitable theatre crushed any hope of Comic Potential meeting its commercial potential. The MTC run is sold out.
The American premiere 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, playing several roles, left the staging Dec. 24 for a prior commitment; Rose Stockton stepped into her role Dec. 26. 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.
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.
For information, call (212) 581-1212 or visit the web site at www.manhattantheatreclub.com.
MTC stages another New York premiere beginning Jan. 9: The musical, Time and Again, based on the popular novel, starts previews at Stage II. The chamber-style musical is thought to be a template for a hoped-for larger commercial staging on Broadway. Book is by Jack Viertel, music and lyrics are by Walter Edgar ("Skip") Kennon. Susan H. Schulman directs. Performances continue to Feb. 18.
— By Kenneth Jones