The names of these characters alone may be enough to spike ticket sales at the box office. Tony Award-nominated playwright Busch (The Tale of the Allergist's Wife) is also an actor, beloved by his cadre of fans for playing delicious over-the-top characters — often in slit skirts, snoods and silks.
Carl Andress (Die Mommie Die!) directs the world premiere, playing to Oct. 19 in the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre at La Jolla Playhouse. Previews began Sept. 16.
The play of three interconnected stories offers the chance for several cast members to perform more than one role, "highlighting the play's central theme of dual identity," according to La Jolla.
Expect "a realistic tale of a mother and son screenwriting team in the 1940s, a B-movie about the uneasy alliance between a mob queen and a frosty lady scientist and a Russian fairy tale in which a painfully shy Princess makes a dark pact with a mercurial old witch."
The Third Story's cast includes Busch (Baba Yaga/Queenie Bartlett) of Die Mommie Die!; Tony Award nominee Mary Beth Peil (Peg/Dr. Rutenspitz) of the recent Nine and Sunday in the Park With George; Jonathan Walker (Drew/Steve) of Broadway's Twentieth Century; Jennifer Van Dyck (Constance Hudson) of Broadway's Hedda Gabler; Scott Parkinson (Zygote) of Broadway's The Coast of Utopia; and Rebecca Levy (Vasalisa/Verna/Miss Tinsley), a third-year MFA student at UC San Diego who has also performed in Lulu at Harvard University. The Third Story was commissioned by the La Jolla Playhouse and was "inspired by Busch's life-long interest in film history."
"The themes in the play are: mothers having to release their children out into the world, no matter how painful that may be," stated Busch, a Tony-nominated playwright for The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. "Then the larger theme is how writers use everything in their lives for their creative work, consciously and unconsciously, past and present, honoring, sentimentalizing and cannibalizing their relationships."
The creative team includes Lewis Flinn (original music), scenic designer David Gallo, costume designer Gregory Gale, lighting designer Christopher Akerland, sound designer Walter Trarbach, hair and wig designer Tom Watson, dramaturg Shirley Fishman and stage manager Lisa Porter. Associate producer is Dana I. Harrel, production manager is Peter J. Davis.
"I have great confidence in our cast members and creatives," Busch said. "Carl and I are in a wonderful place in our long collaboration where we think as one and yet also challenge each other. I am thrilled that we have such a crackerjack team of skilled and highly imaginative designers. The three stories are told in three very different theatrical styles and are interconnected in a cinematic fashion."
Performance times are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 PM; Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM; and Sundays at 7 PM. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 PM. Single ticket prices range from $29 to $62. To purchase, call (858) 550-1010 or go online to www.lajollaplayhouse.org.
Led by artistic director Christopher Ashley and Managing Director Steven B. Libman, the Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and is now considered one of the most well respected not-for-profit theatres in Southern California. During the tenure of director emeritus Des McAnuff, numerous Playhouse productions moved to Broadway, including The Farnsworth Invention, Big River, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Dracula, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, and the currently-running Jersey Boys.