Elaine Stritch, certainly one of the most ribald and outspoken characters in the annals of American theatre, will be given a forum at the Public Theater this fall to do what she does best — mouth off. The one-person, autobiographical show, called Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, will play the Newman Theater beginning Oct. 26, opening Nov. 7. George C. Wolfe directs.
Liberty is molded out of the raw material of Stritch's crowded life on and off the stage. The text was "constructed" by New York drama critic John Lahr, and then "reconstructed" by Stritch.
Stritch's career is strewn with landmark performances, including her turns in Pal Joey, William Inge's Bus Stop, Noel Coward's Sail Away, and, of course, Stephen Sondheim's Company, in which her fame was sealed with a renowned delivery of "The Ladies Who Lunch."
Stritch will also discuss (no doubt with salty humor and a sandpaper voice) lesser know aspects of her life, including the 15 years she spent living in England following her performance in Company; her job covering Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam; her early days in New York studying with Erwin Piscator and dating Marlon Brando; and her aborted engagement to film actor Gig Young.
The show has scenic design by Riccardo Hernández, lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, costume design by Paul Tazewell, sound design by Acme Sound Partners, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick and music direction by Rob Bowman. *
Suzan-Lori Parks' new play, called Fucking A, will be the playwright's third work at the Public in as many seasons. Topdog/Underdog, starring Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright, bowed last spring, while In the Blood played in fall 1999. Like In the Blood, A takes as its inspiration Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter." In 17 scenes and seven songs, A tells of an illiterate abortionist whose goal is to buy her wayward son out of prison. Parts of the play are written in an invented language called "Talk," which is used by the undereducated women of the piece to talk about sex and reproduction. Parks also penned the music and lyrics for the story's songs, a first for the playwright. Parks directed the play for Houston's DiverseWorks Artspace in early 2000.
If Parks is obsessed with "The Scarlet Letter," then Ellen McLaughlin is fixated on the Battle of Troy. An earlier play, Iphigenia and Other Daughters, which played Off-Broadway's CSC, was a post-modern look at Agamemnon's wife and his daughters, including the title character, who was sacrificed to the gods so that Agamemnon's forces might sail to and engage rival Troy. McLaughlin's new work, Helen, is about the woman whose face launched those one thousand ships in the first place. In the world of Helen, however, the woman in question is not in Troy but in Cairo having protein shakes and facials. Tony Kushner, taking a break from playwriting, will direct the show.
Keith David and Liev Shreiber will then star in the new Othello. David has appeared in two Public Theater productions in the last season alone: David Grimm's Kit Marlowe and A Winter's Tale in Central Park. Mark Lamos will direct.
Completing the line-up is 36 Views by Naomi Iizuka, directed by Mark Wing-Davey. The show is a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre.