In his first season as new artistic director of CT's Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Douglas Hughes has chosen eight plays, including one he directed at Manhattan Class Company in 1996, The Grey Zone. Also on the bill are plays by Douglas Carter Beane and Keith Glover, and a revival of the rarely staged John Guare play, Bosoms And Neglect.
First up, starting previews Oct. 3, is She Stoops To Conquer. Artistic director Hughes directs this Oliver Goldsmith comedy, about a young man who easily woos serving girls but stumbles when courting a proper lady. Mark O'Donnell, who worked with Bill Irwin on Scapin, has added a prologue and epilogue specifically for this production. (Oct. 3-Nov. 2).
Christopher Evan Welch, a Drama Desk nominee for Scapin, makes his Long Wharf debut as Tony Lumpkin, playing opposite Marcus Giamatti (The Young Man From Atlanta) and Kathryn Meisle (Racing Demon). Also starring are Pamela Payton-Wright, David Margulies, Julie Boyd, Paul Whitthorne, Jodie Lynne McClintock, Denis Holmes and David Hilder. Ensemble members include Caleb Sekeres, Brian Nicholas Olivieri, Michael Boland, Leigh Anne Carusone, Ashley Voos and Glory Gallo.
Designing Conquer are John Lee Beatty (set), Pat Collins (costumes), Linda Fisher (lighting) and David Van Tieghem (sound).
Director Hughes, the new Long Wharf chief, succeeds Arvin Brown, who stepped down in June from the artistic director post he has held for 30 years. Hughes comes off a stint as director of artistic planning at the Guthrie, a position he assumed in April 1997 after 11 years as associate artistic director (under Daniel Sullivan) at Seattle Repertory (1984 1996). Winner of a 1996 Obie for The Grey Zone, Hughes also staged the new David Rabe play, A Question Of Mercy, at New York Theatre Workshop, March 1997. More important even than the plays he's chosen is Hughes commitment to Long Wharf's second stage space. Three shows will play at stage two: The Grey Zone, Wit and Bosoms.
Brown, 56, who celebrated his 30th year in the post in 1996, departs the theatre on amicable terms, reportedly to pursue a career as director of TV and films. Long Wharf spokesperson Robert B. Friend said Brown will continue as an artistic associate of the theatre, directing one show each season. However, Brown's name is not connected to any of the eight projects in the 1997-98 season.
Here's the remaining Newton Schenck mainstage line-up:
IN WALKS ED A play written & directed by the author of Thunder Knocking On The Door, Keith Glover. A reformed hit-man still carrying a torch for his old girlfriend walks into a Harlem bar -- and "shoot-em-up" mayhem ensues. Glover describes the play as "violent and funny, cool and hot, sexy, heroic and -- above all -- very funky. It won't be anything like they've seen before." (Nov. 14-Dec. 14)
THE COUNTRY CLUB
Douglas Carter Beane's As Bees In Honey Drown is one of the summer's most talked-about plays in New York. This comedy, which he directs, follows a clique of boys -- named Soos, Pooker, Froggy, Bri, Hutch and Zip -- as they age and begin to feel embarrassed about their lifestyle. (Jan. 2-Feb. 1, 1998)
A QUESTION OF MERCY
In David Rabe's drama, an AIDS victim attempts suicide. His friends' decision to help -- and to involve an "impartial" doctor -- bring up moral issues that go beyond a simple yes or no. Adapted from real letters by Dr. Richard Selzer, Mercy will be directed by artistic director Hughes, who staged the play last season at New York Theatre Workshop. (Feb. 13 March 15, 1998)
For a complete change of pace, Long Wharf turns to Noel Coward's frothy comedy about a seance which brings Charles' first wife into contact with his still-living second. John Tillinger directs, March 27-May 1998.
Here's the Stage II line-up:
Margaret Edson's comedy/drama won the L.A. Critics Circle Award for new play in its telling of a brilliant but caustic literature professor diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Derek Anson Jones directs, Oct. 31-Nov. 30.
THE GREY ZONE
Douglas Hughes again stages this Holocaust drama as he did at Manhattan Class Company in 1996. Based on true events, Grey Zone looks at a special Auschwitz squad of Jewish prisoners forced to help exterminate their own brethren. (Jan. 13-Feb. 15, 1998).
BOSOMS AND NEGLECT
John Guare's dark comedy, directed by Nicholas Martin, concerns two book obsessed patients of a brilliant psychoanalyst, forced to fend for themselves when the doctor goes on vacation. (March 13-April 12, 1998).
For tickets (subscriptions start at $125) and information on Long Wharf's season, call (203) 787-4282.
--By David Lefkowitz