Revelation Theatre, a new nonprofit Off-Broadway outfit, will make a splashy debut Nov. 12, when previews begin for its first production, Temporary Help by David Wiltse.
Starring are a couple Broadway veterans, Robert Cuccioli and Margaret Colin, as well as Chad Allen of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" fame.
The play is presented at Theatre Four. Artistic director Leslie L. Smith directs the run, which opens Nov. 17 and runs through Jan. 12, 2003. Also in the cast is William Prael, as the Sheriff.
Cuccioli is still best remembered for his performance in the title roles of the musical Jekyll & Hyde. Colin's most famous Broadway part was also an eponymous character—the former First Lady in Gip Hoppe's satire Jackie.
It was Colin who recommended Cuccioli for the part of Karl Steber, the abusive rancher spouse of Colin's Faye. The two knew each other through Colin's husband, Justin Deas. "I read the script and found it very interesting," Cuccioli told Playbill On Line. "Then I got to meet with Leslie Smith, the artistic director and director of this play. I got a good vibe about the company and the play."
Hard as it is to believe about a theatre veteran like Cuccioli, Help represents a first for him. "Working on a play is a major plus for me because it's my first [in New York], really," he said, noting that while he's performed in a variety of plays around the U.S., he's done only musical work in Gotham. "It's a very dark character," he continued, "which is not something that's unusual to me, but the variations and the levels in it are a stretch. Playing a Midwestern farmer is a stretch for me. I'm from New York. And the psychological aspect of it—basically, you have to de-shrink yourself, in psychological terms, to do this part. You have to take logic out of things and go towards the total dysfunction."
Temporary Help was seen at Westport Country Playhouse last summer. Gordon Edelstein helmed that version. Wiltse had a hit on Broadway in the '80s with Doubles.
It is artistic director Smith's plan that the new company will soon be working out of its own theatre.
"We're building a space in an old garage," Smith told Playbill On-Line. The building is at 334 W. 39th Street, a few blocks from Times Square. When completed, it will boast 154 seats and a wide playing area similar to Signature Theatre Company's digs on W. 42nd Street.
As far as artistic blueprints are concerned, Smith is following the example of the defunct Circle Rep, the trailblazing Off-Broadway troupe which favored a sort of lyrical realism, premiered new works by Lanford Wilson, Bill Hoffman, Craig Lucas and Jon Robin Baitz, and nurtured a host of actors including William Hurt and Jeff Daniels before going belly up in 1995. Two names associated with Circle Rep—Hoffman and Austin Pendleton—are now connected by Revelation.
"We're going to really focus on finding new voices," said Smith. Other plays planned for the first season are: Holy Cross Sucks, a one-man show, directed by Jeff Calhoun, in which Rob Nash plays 32 characters at a Catholic School in Texas; and But Not For Me, a Keith Reddin work about Nixon, politics and a bellboy, which has had a staging at South Coast Rep. Billy Hopkins will direct the latter.
Tickets to Temporary Help are $37.50. Call Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200, or visit the box office (424 West 55th Street). For further information, visit www.revelationtheater.org.
—By Robert Simonson