After a lengthy lay-off from playwriting, Christopher Durang has been working double-time the past couple of years, bringing a show to Broadway (Sex and Longing), and one-acts to such venues as Ensemble Studio Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club (Durang Durang).
Next season Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons will premiere a new full-length comedy by Durang, Betty's Summer Vacation. Other works by the playwright, whose comedies often push the dark limits of farce, include Beyond Therapy, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, The Actor's Nightmare, Nina in the Morning, Wanda's Visit, A Stye of the Eye, Mrs. Sorken and History of the American Film.
Also on tap for Playwrights Horizons' 28th season will be the Pulitzer nominated Freedomland by Amy Freed. This darkly satiric comedy had its premiere at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, CA, Nov. 1997.
The play takes its title from the name of a Wild West theme park in the Bronx, where Freed grew up. (The park was ultimately torn down in the 1960s to make way for Co-op City, a high-rise housing development.)
"Freedomland [the park] represents a primordial, unquestioning order for me--a place of safety," said Freed in a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times. The play, however, is not about the warm, nostalgic world of amusement parks -- at its center is a distraught family with deep-seated problems: The father has been abandoned by his first wife; his second wife is a free-love refugee; his two grown daughters -- an avant-garde artist and a lost soul who loves to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings -- hate each other; and his paranoid son is on the verge of going postal. Freed's previous play, the black comedy The Psychic Life of Savages -- a fictionalized look at the poets Sylvia Plath, Ted Morgan, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell -- won the New York Arts Club's prestigious $10,000 Joseph Kesselring Award and was a hit two seasons ago at Wool Ath Theatre in Washington (in a production that won a 1995 Charles McArthur Award for outstanding new play).
Further details on the 1998-99 Playwrights Horizons season, which will include two other shows, will probably not be announced until late summer, according to spokesperson James Morrison (Apr. 29). Morrison did say the company was looking at a musical, and might do a summer project in its lab space.
As for the company's current show, Tom Donaghy's From Above runs to May 10. Playwright Donaghy, who arrived via Northeast Local at Lincoln Center in 1996 and spent Minutes From the Blue Route at the Atlantic in 1997, opened his latest show Apr. 26. A product of Playwrights Horizons' Amblin/Dreamworks commission program, From Above began previews Apr. 3, at Playwrights Horizons' Anne G. Wilder Theatre.
Patricia Kalember, from TV's "Sisters" and "thirtysomething," stars as a young widow whose year of mourning ends when a mysterious stranger shows up on her doorstep, claiming to be her late husband. Neal Huff (Troilus in New York's most recent Troilus and Cressida) co-stars as the stranger; comprising the rest of the cast are Mary Testa, Meg Gibson, Stephen Mendillo and Stephen Stout.
Tim Sanford is currently in his third season as artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St.