For Final Weekend of Acclaimed Talking Heads, Expect a Surprise Sept. 6-7

News   For Final Weekend of Acclaimed Talking Heads, Expect a Surprise Sept. 6-7 Playgoers attending Off-Broadway's Talking Heads, the acclaimed festival of Alan Bennett one acts, will get more stars in their eyes the evenings of Sept. 6 and 7.

Instead of three solo plays per evening, a fourth will be added each night for the final Saturday and Sunday of the run. The regular line up of Brenda Wehle, Frances Sternhagen and Lynn Redgrave will be augmented Sept. 6 by Christine Ebersole's solo turn, and on Sept. 7 with Kathleen Chalfant.

The unique festival of solo plays by Bennett (The Lady in the Van) totaled seven different works in performances at the Minetta Lane Theatre. The run ends Sept. 7. The producers are exploring a London future for the collection, performed in rotating rep.

Directed by Michael Engler, Talking Heads stars Kathleen Chalfant, Daniel Davis, Christine Ebersole, Valerie Mahaffey, Lynn Redgrave, Frances Sternhagen and Brenda Wehle in pieces billed as "solo plays." Previews began March 22 toward an opening of April 7. By close, it will have logged 17 previews and 177 regular performances.

During the run, Roundabout Theatre Company subscribers attended the plays as part of that troupe's subscription package.

At the intimate Minetta Lane in Greenwich Village, there was also a feeling that audiences were rediscovering the art of listening — paying attention to the pulses, high and lows of crafty storytelling, and absorbing the nuances of solid acting. The packaging of the plays created a kind of festival atmosphere, with theatregoers who were hooked by one evening returning to the next one. Some people bought both programs for a special price.

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The two-sitting and six-play experience (with the two sittings sold separately) welcomed a seventh play into the rotation shortly after opening. Sternhagen starred.

The collection received the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Foreign Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Ensemble Achievement, the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play (for Redgrave), and six Obie Awards (acting awards for the original cast members).

Producers are Plymouth Projects (Tom Hulce and Julia Rask), Ron Kastner, Daryl Roth, Cheryl Wiesenfeld, Margaret Cotter, Amy Nederlander and Scott Nederlander.

Julia Rask, who, with her producing partner Tom Hulce and Ron Kastner, presented the festival in Los Angeles — where it had a brief, sold-out run at the Tiffany Theatre in the spring 2002 — before New York, said in a statement: "Talking Heads was originally going to be a limited engagement. But we were fortunate to have had the opportunity to keep this amazingly gifted line up of actors with us for almost 200 performances. Due to commitments on other projects, our actors are moving on. We are very pleased to have brought Alan Bennett's exquisite writing to the New York stage."

Final weekend performances play 8 PM Friday and Saturday, 3 PM Saturday and Sunday and 7 PM Sunday.

For the record, Talking Heads included the following:

PROGRAM A

  • The Hand of God (performed by Brenda Wehle): "Even in the cheapened era of eBay and Antiques Road Show, nothing can diminish Celia's expert appreciation of fine antiques. Nothing, that is, but the Hand of God."
  • A Lady of Letters (performed by Christine Ebersole): "A compulsive letter writer interferes in what she wrongly perceives as a local case of child abuse."
  • Bed Among the Lentils (performed by Kathleen Chalfant): "A reluctant minister's wife discovers her salvation from a surprising source."
  • Waiting for the Telegram (performed by Frances Sternhagen): "A 95-year-old woman experiences a new life's love and loss, and recalls another from her past." PROGRAM B

  • Her Big Chance (performed by Valerie Mahaffey): "Leslie thinks she has a great deal to offer, both as an actress and a person, and when she gets her 'big chance,' offer she does."
  • A Chip in the Sugar (performed by Daniel Davis): "A middle-aged man, still living with his widowed mother, finds himself playing second fiddle to an old suitor of hers who comes back into her life."
  • Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet (performed by Lynn Redgrave) "charts a middle class woman's first tentative steps from willful innocence to a deeper understanding of life and the world." Bennett's solo pieces were previously known in TV versions.

    Tickets range $35-$65 and are available by calling Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100, or in person at the Minetta Lane Theatre box office, 18 Minetta Lane.

    For more information, visit www.talkingheadsoffbroadway.com.