After a season of almost unrelenting darkness, from the bleakness of Beckett's Texts for Nothing to the Holocaust-era Race and I Will Bear Witness, Off-Broadway's Classic Stage Company (CSC) returned to bleak matters with its season-opener Monster, but after that, things lighten up a bit.
The biggest name in the mix is writer-actor-comedian Steve Martin, who is adapting Carl Sternheim's edgy, door-slamming farce The Underpants. Though Martin's adaptation of Sternheim's best-known comedy is titled "The Underpants," more delicate translations have called it "Knickers" and "The Trousers." The play tells of a man who's mortally embarrassed when his wife's undies fall down during the procession of the King. Two gentlemen notice her predicament — and become immediately smitten with her. CSC artistic director Barry Edelstein will direct The Underpants, running March 20-April 28 at CSC (officially opening April 4).
Martin, who made it big as a comedian with the album "Let's Get Small" and has been a movie star since "The Jerk" (followed by such pics as "The Man with Two Brains," "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "Father of the Bride" and "Pennies From Heaven") made theatrical waves in the 1990s with his comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile, some one acts. The past couple of years have seen him return to Hollywood and concentrate on films, his art collection and numerous comic essays for the New Yorker, as well as a novella, "Shopgirl."
Playwright Sternheim was born in 1878 in Leipzig. After studying philosophy he co-founded "Hyperion" literary magazine and went on to write such plays as The Cassette and The Snob. After encountering moral outrage over some of his writing, Sternheim moved to Brussels and lived there until his death in 1942. Designing The Underpants are Scott Pask (set), Angela Wendt (costumes), Elizabeth Rhodes (sound) and Russell H. Champa (lighting).
For tickets and information on The Underpants at CSC, 136 East 13th St., call (212) 677-4210, ext. 2.
In a quieter vein, director Anne Bogart and Ellen Lauren are busy adapting the writings of Virginia Woolf into Room, with Bogart's SITI Company working on the piece at CSC. Lauren would star in the solo piece, no doubt focusing on "A Room of One's Own," which has already served as a solo vehicle for Eileen Atkins. Bogart's other projects have included bobrauschenbergamerica by Charles L. Mee, staged at this-past season's Humana Festival in Louisville, KY. Room arrives May 15 15 June 9, officially opening May 23.
For tickets and information on shows at CSC, 136 East 13th Street, call (212) 677-4210 or check out their website, www.classicstage.org.
— By David Lefkowitz