Eileen Brennan and Kim Hunter — two indelible American actresses — will play addled but wise Parisians in The Colleagues Theatre Company revival of Jean Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot, Off-Broadway, Oct. 2-28.
Colleagues' mission is presenting work for "mature" actors — say, over the age of 50. Brennan, who received an Academy Award nomination for "Private Benjamin," will play idealistic Countess Aurelia (the title character) in the fantasy about capitalists ruining the romance and humanity of Paris by drilling for oil. Hunter, the original "Stella" of Broadway's A Streetcar Named Desire, and an Oscar winner for the same role in the film version, will play Gabrielle, one of the trio of madwomen who plot in the name of freedom and beauty in the French fable. Catherine Wolf, Colleagues' producing director, will play madwoman No. 3, Constance. Roy B. Steinberg, who directed The Colleagues' Second Summer, helms the revival.
Performances are at The Neighborhood Playhouse, 340 East 54th Street in Manhattan. The large cast for Madwoman features eleven roles for actors over the age of 55. Official opening is Oct. 3.
Madwoman was adapted by Maurice Valency and was first presented in New York in 1948 with Martita Hunt as Countess Aurelia, Estelle Winwood as Mme. Constance and Nydia Westman as Mme. Gabrielle. A film version starred Katharine Hepburn, and Jerry Herman turned the story into a musical, Dear World. Colleagues was founded in 1995 by Catherine Wolf to commission and produce plays that celebrate "the richness of the mature life experience; to provide performance opportunities for seasoned artists, and to create a two-year scholarship training program in theatrical craftsmanship for gifted high school graduates from underserved communities."
Brennan made a splash in the title role in the hit Off-Broadway musical, Little Mary Sunshine, and was the original Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly! Her films include "The Sting," "The Last Picture Show," "The Cheap Detective." She also starred in the TV series, "Private Benjamin" (winning an Emmy Award).
Hunter recently appeared on Broadway as Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband and also appeared on Broadway in Darkness at Noon, The Tender Trap and more. She was the sympathetic-to-humans ape, Dr. Zira, in the "Planet of the Apes" movie series.
The Madwoman of Chaillot tickets are $19. Performances play 8 PM Tuesday-Saturday and 3 PM, Saturday-Sunday. For information, call (212) 688-3770.
— By Kenneth Jones