As A.R. Gurney’s Ancestral Voices brings a host of stars to New Jersey’s George Street Playhouse, the theatre isn’t forgetting about one of its previous shows -- Anne Meara’s Down The Garden Paths. The show proved a late-winter hit at George Street and has been hovering over Off-Broadway in the hopes of finding a home by summer.
As such, the George Street Playhouse’s 12th annual benefit gala will take its cue from that show and feature Meara and husband Jerry Stiller as its headlining hosts. Titled “Down A Garden Path,” the May 7 benefit will also feature such performers as Tony-winner Roger Bart (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown), Christine Ebersole (Getting Away With Murder), Nancy Opel (George Street’s Loot), Elijah Chester, Jim Fyfe (Legs Diamond), Janet Metz and Penny Fuller (OB’s A New Brain).
At the gala, Clarence E. Lockett, Vice President of Johnson & Johnson, will receive the Thomas H. Keans Arts Advocacy Award. Former Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean will present the award to Lockett, who helped the Playhouse upgrade its computer system.
For tickets ($250-$500) and information on the annual gala call (732) 846-2895, ext. 144.
* As for Ancestral Voices George Street Playhouse is hosting the regional premiere of Gurney’s play, which began previews April 29 for an official opening May 3 and a run through May 28. Artistic director David Saint is staging the piece, which ended its Off-Broadway premiere at Lincoln Center April 3. As with the New York production, the George Street mounting uses rotating casts each week.
The first week (April 29-May 7) features Frances Sternhagen (The Exact Center of the Universe), George Grizzard (A Delicate Balance), Jack Gilpin (The Foreigner), Julie Haggerty (Wifey) and Paul Rudd (Twelfth Night).
The second week (May 9-14) will bring John Cullum (Shenandoah), Penny Fuller (A New Brain), Tim Daly and his real-life wife, Amy Van Nostrand.
Week three (May 16-21) will feature Conrad Bain (TV’s “Maude”), Jane Powell, Roger Bart (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown), James Rebhorn and Karen Valentine (TV’s “Room 222,” Breaking Legs).
The fourth week (May 23-28) will offer newly-announced Kelly Bishop and Ma and Pa Walton -- Michael Learned and Ralph Waite -- as well as “The Wonder Years’” Fred Savage.
In Voices, five actors sit on stage and read the script (making it easy for changing casts) about a family whose lives are turned inside out when young Eddie's grandmother unexpectedly divorces his grandfather to marry the grandfather's best friend.
The play will also be seen at Westport Country Playhouse in CT in July, with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Scott Wolf and Swoosie Kurtz among the luminaries taking part.
Tickets to Ancestral Voices are available by calling George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, at (732) 246-7717.
-- By David Lefkowitz