Occupant, one of the most frustrating tickets of the New York theatre season, ends its limited run April 7 at Signature Theatre's Peter Norton Space on 42nd Street.
The world premiere of Edward Albee's new work about artist Louise Nevelson was a hot item when it was announced that Tony and Academy Award-winner Anne Bancroft would star, but excitement turned to frustration for audiences and Bancroft when the star fell ill, missed shows and the run was briefly suspended.
The two-character play went dark Feb. 23-March 18 to allow Bancroft to recover from pneumonia. She returned March 21 and continues to the show's scheduled April 7 close. James Houghton, artistic director of Off-Broadway's Signature, has expressed hope that Signature and Bancroft may re-team for a remount of the show later in the year. There are currently no plans, a spokesperson said.
Standby Kathleen Butler played the role of sculptor Nevelson in the two-character play March 19-20, and for some shows in February when Bancroft fell ill. The title is inspired by the fact that the artist once insisted that her hospital room door be labeled "occupant" rather the "Louise Nevelson."
Because the show was sold out, there were no official press performances for the shortened run. That didn't necessarily keep some connected critics out of the show, but to date no reviews have appeared. *
Bancroft was taken ill with pneumonia and had to miss two weeks of previews (which started Feb. 5) at the Off-Broadway nonprofit that devotes an entire season to specific writers (hence, "signature"). The current season offers world premieres of works by writers who have been the focus of past years in the troupe's 10-year history. Bancroft played the first week of the run. Butler performed in her absence before the Feb. 22 shutdown.
The two-hander is in an interview format in which sculptor Nevelson recounts her adventurous bohemian life in art, as an interviewer (Neal Huff) tries to separate fact from fiction.
In an earlier statement, Bancroft said, "I love this play. It's an incredibly valuable piece of theatre, and I can’t wait to get back to it."
Anthony Page directs. Signature Theatre Company's Peter Norton Space is located at 555 W. 42nd Street (between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues). The performance schedule is 8 PM Tuesday Saturday, with matinees on 2 PM Saturday and 3 PM Sunday. Single tickets are $60. For subscription and ticket information, call (212) 244-PLAY.
Next up for Signature is the world premiere of A Few Stout Individuals by John Guare, April 23-June 12.
— By Kenneth Jones