David Saint, artistic director of New Jersey's George Street Theatre, forged a strong relationship with Anne Meara when he directed the New York, Los Angeles and NJ mountings of her acclaimed After-Play. So successful was that collaboration that Saint has made room in the theatre's 1999-00 schedule for Meara's next play, Down The Garden Paths. A comedy-drama, Garden will grow Nov. 20-Dec. 19 (in place of the previously-scheduled The Last Night of Ballyhoo). Saint will direct this co-production with CT's Long Wharf Theatre.
The story of a family gathering to celebrate the latest novel by an award winning author, Down The Garden Paths will feature an on-film cameo by Meara's real-life husband, Jerry Stiller, playing a quantum physicist. Stiller and Meara's real-life daughter, Amy Stiller, is also in the show. And adding further to the show's familial undercurrent are true life couple Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, joined by their daughter, Roberta Wallach. Supporting castmembers include Michael Countryman, Angela Pietropinto, David Wohl and Ann McDonough.
Jackson and Wallach have appeared together in such shows as Twice Around The Park and the recent Tennessee Williams Remembered. The younger Wallach received a Drama Desk nomination for playing the hellishly unpleasant daughter in Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment.
Designing The Garden Paths at George Street are Howell Binkley (lighting), James Youmans (set), Chris Bailey (sound) and David Murin (costumes).
Meara's play is the second in a six-play George Street season. Here's the rest of the line-up: € Do I Hear A Waltz, a new version of the Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents musical, will play on the Mainstage Oct. 9-Nov. 14. Artistic Director Saint will direct. A production spokesperson told PBOL (May 25), "Arthur Laurents, David Saint and Stephen Sondheim will be completely reworking the play. Steve is talking about writing some new lyrics and adding additional lyrics for the production, but they can't go forward with decisions until Arthur [Laurents] totally rewrites the book. We're also going be brand new orchestrations, we hope."
[As of Aug. 31, Saint was still casting, with composer Sondheim taking an active role in the casting process. Casting is expected shortly after Labor Day weekend.]
The plot of Waltz revolves around a lonely schoolteacher, Leona Samish, who splurges her life savings on a trip to Venice. Once there, she finds plenty of love and passion ... but only between other couples. Her one friend is a young boy, who shows her the city's sights and offers a sympathetic ear for her woes. Finally, she meets the man of her dreams, an antique shop owner named Renato, with whom she falls desperately in love -- until she finds out he's married. Leona returns home with a greater understanding of love itself and fond memories of a man who taught her not to settle for less than she deserves.
The original production starred Elizabeth Allen, Carol Bruce and Sergio Franchi. Do I Hear A Waltz? is a musical adaptation of Laurents' play, The Time of the Cuckoo. Waltz marks the only collaboration between musical theatre legends Rodgers & Sondheim. Although Sondheim was nominated for a Tony for his lyrics, Waltz was the last time he wrote lyrics for someone else's music for Broadway (although he later wrote lyrics under a nom de plume to Rodgers' daughter Mary's music in an Off-Broadway revue).
Sondheim had previously written lyrics for other composers, including Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story and Jule Styne on Gypsy, but he'd already had composed two musicals of his own with Anyone Can Whistle, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
€ Allan Knee's Syncopation will receive its world premiere at George Street in a production starring Mark Nelson, Jan. 8-Feb 6, 2000. After working with The George Street last year, Nelson returns for this world premiere play.
€ Terrence McNally's Master Class will star Rita Moreno in a production directed by David Saint, Feb. 12-March 19. McNally's Class revolves around Maria Callas teaching students her lessons after her stellar career has begun to fade. Moreno starred in the movie version of "West Side Story." Other plays by McNally include Corpus Christi and The Ritz.
€ Joe Orton's classic farce, Loot, will play next on the George Street Mainstage, March 25-April 23. Loot, one of Orton's later plays, won London's Evening Standard Award for Best Play in 1967. The comedy exposes five characters whose interactions revolve around a dead body, a coffin, and a lot of stolen money.
A sixth production, running April 29-May 28, 2000, has yet to be announced.
For tickets and information on the George Street Playhouse season call (732) 246-7717.