The emotional and comic stakes are high in Denver Center Theatre Company's Sept. 30 world premiere of Nagle Jackson's modern drawing room comedy, A Hotel on Marvin Gardens, wherein lovers and business associates play a winner-take-all game of Monopoly.
Previews for the first of five world premieres this season by DCTC began Sept. 23. (A new Jackson translation of The Miser is also on the 1999-2000 slate there.)
Jackson's A Hotel on Marvin Gardens was such a hit in its spring 1999 reading in the DCTC's US WEST TheatreFest that Denver Center artistic director Donovan Marley fast-tracked the comedy to the current 21st season. It replaces a revival of Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, Sept. 23-Oct. 30, which had scheduling conflict with the production's co-producers.
Hotel continues to Oct. 30 in DCTC's in-the-round Space Theatre, an appropriate venue for a play whose central focus is a four-sided board game.
In the comedy, co-workers, friends and lovers meet at a New York City publisher's remote cabin in the private Thimble Islands chain in Long Island Sound. Various people linked to the publisher's magazine (called "Me") gather around a game table for a winner-take-all roll of the dice. It's been called the perfect play for those who know people who play the popular board game too aggressively. The play's title is a reference to the coveted real estate square on the Monopoly board.
Jackson said it's his homage to the drawing-room comedies he grew up with. He called it "a comedy of manners at the end of the Consumer Century."
Playwright Jackson will direct Hotel, the fourth DCTC world premiere of one of his plays. Previously, Jackson saw the stagings of his The Quick-Change Room (1995), Taking Leave (1998) and The Elevation of Thieves (1999).
Hotel features Nance Williamson (new to DCTC, a vet of Broadway's Broken Glass and Off-Broadway's Marvin's Room), playing the Long Island hostess, a New York media mogul. Her guests are John Hutton, Annette Held, Sam Gregory and Lauren Berst.
Designers are Michael Ganio (set and costume), Don Darnutzer (lighting) and Matthew C. Swartz (sound).
Tickets range $23-$36.
Call (303) 893-4100 or (800) 641-1222 for information. DCTC's website is www.denvercenter.org.
Jackson was artistic director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, from 1979 to 1990. He is the first American to win the Onassis Foundation International Playwriting Award (for Elevation of Thieves). He took third prize in the competition, whose mandate was for work about "problems facing mankind at the turn of the new century."
The Quick-Change Room played New York City's INTAR Theatre in 1997. Taking Leave, about a man in the midst of Alzheimer's disease, was nominated for the American Theatre Critics New Play Award.
Also playing in the four-theatre DCTC complex: Beauty Queen of Leenane, originally planned for the Space Theatre, will begin performances at The Stage Theatre, Sept. 30, continuing to Oct. 30. The return of last season's hit, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, officially opened the season Sept. 23 in the Ricketson Theatre. Previews there began Sept. 15.
DCTC performances are at Denver Performing Arts Complex, Speer and Arapahoe, in downtown Denver.
The four other world premieres for DCTC in 1999-2000, not including a new Nagle Jackson translation of Moliere's The Miser, are:
• Barrio Babies, a musical about a young Latino screenwriter reinventing his world in order to get his work produced, with music by Fernando Rivas and book and lyrics by Luis Santeiro, directed by Susana Tubert. The production is expected to move to New York (a project of producer Eric Krebs) after Denver. The Ricketson Theatre, Nov. 10-Dec. 30.
• Waiting to be Invited, a world premiere play by S.M. Shepherd Massat, directed by Israel Hicks. A loving tribute to Shepherd-Massat's grandmother, who, with three middle-aged friends, decided to dine at a "whites only" lunch counter in segregated Atlanta, at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement. The Space Theatre, Jan. 13-Feb. 19, 2000.
• Byrd's Boy, a world premiere by Bruce J. Robinson, directed by Arthur Masella, about an African-American woman in her mid-thirties who offers a shattered 68-year old man solace, friendship and a key to his identity. It's based on a newspaper account of a real event. The staging is expected to have a New York transfer (for producer Jeffrey Ash) after its Denver run. The Ricketson Theatre, Feb. 2-March 11, 2000.
• Give 'Em a Bit of Mystery: Shakespeare and the Old Tradition, a world premiere written by and starring company member and Royal Shakespeare Company veteran Tony Church, chronicling the acting styles of Shakespearean work over the centuries, directed by Bruce K. Sevy. The Ricketson Theatre, April 26-June 10, 2000.
-- By Kenneth Jones