Horton Foote's 1995 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, The Young Man From Atlanta, will open at Chicago's Goodman Theatre Jan. 27, 1997, in expectation of a Broadway opening March 27. (The Chicago opening date had previously been announced as Jan. 20.)
The play won the Pulitzer following its world-premiere production at the small Off-Broadway Signature Theatre Company, which (as they've done with Edward Albee and Adrienne Kennedy) dedicated an entire season to Horton Foote's work.
Although Peter Masterson directed the play in New York, Goodman artistic director Robert Falls will take the helm for this engagement, which starts Chicago previews Jan. 17. The stars will be different, too. Rip Torn and Shirley Knight will be featured as the aging couple coping with his sudden retirement and the memory of their dead son.
Co-starring in Atlanta will be Kevin Breznahan, Marcus Giamatti, William Biff McGuire, Tuck Milligan, Pat Nesbit, Jacqueline Williams and Beatrice Winde. The show's designers are Thomas Lynch (sets), David C. Woolard (costumes), James F. Ingalls (lighting), Richard Woodbury (composer/sound).
Post-Signature production in Boston and Texas revealed problems, which the producer felt demanded major creative changes, including both cast (Ralph Waite and Carlin Glynn) and director. Complicating the situation was the fact that Masterson and Foote are cousins, and the playwright was torn between family and professional loyalties. "There were tears and harsh words exchanged," said someone close to both parties. But when the smoke cleared, Falls was the new director, and Shirley Knight and Rip Torn the leads.
"A producer must be passionate, persistent and patient," says David Richenthal, the N.Y. co-producer with Anita Waxman and Jujamcyn. "We reached for someone we considered to be the best director in the country for American material, someone who could take Horton's remarkable work and best reveal the subterranean emotions working beneath the surface."
The producer added that he hoped the regional theatre production in Chicago would give the playwright and new creative team even more time to work on the play to make it even "tighter and sharper."
Goodman Theatre dramaturg Tom Creamer told Playbill On-Line that changes to the script really have been a matter of fine tuning. "The rewrites from Horton Foote have been small changes, a line here and there. He and Robert Falls got together for a couple of days in Wharton, Texas, and worked on repositioning information, taking a line of exposition from one scene to another. But the scenes themselves are still intact."
No further casting has been announced for the Goodman staging; multi time Tony nominee Tom Aldredge was nearly signed but ultimately couldn't do the project. Creamer explained the reason Torn and Knight were chosen to replace Waite and Glynn. "I'd heard the play worked well on the Signature space, but bigger houses are more trouble, and the production didn't expand its scale to fit the houses. Horton's plays work so well on TV and the screen because you can always go in for a close-up." With 683 seats, the Goodman isn't exactly a cozy nook, but Creamer reasoned, "Intimate plays can work, but you need a powerhouse. Like when we did A Touch Of The Poet last year we got Brian Dennehey. You need the voice. Also we have Tom Lynch designing it so we'll get a real sense of the house they live in, their environment."
The Young Man From Atlanta will run in Chicago through March 1, 1997. For tickets ($26-$39) & information call (312) 443-3800.