Sharon Gless, the onetime star of TV's police drama, "Cagney & Lacey," plunges into the first preview of Claudia Allen's world premiere showbiz comedy, Cahoots, at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, May 12.
Best known as Christine Cagney on "C&L," and for the series "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill," Gless is no stranger to the stage, having starred with Tom Conti in Neil Simon's Chapter Two at the Gielgud Theater in London, with Bill Paterson in a stage version of Stephen King's Misery at the Criterion Center in London, and opposite Kim Hunter in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine at the StageWest Theater in Massachusetts.
Cahoots sounds like new territory for Gless, widely known for her more serious TV parts: It's a madcap show business comedy about a playwriting team -- Madeline Ballantine and Ray O'Keefe -- who chase fame, fortune and each other across several decades of the 20th century.
The play is expected to be zany and evocative of the periods in which the characters spar, from the 1930s to the 1960s. According to an early reading of the script, issues such as blacklisting do arise in the new play. Gless plays an alcoholic playwright who collaborates with a bellboy (played by Sean Grennan) who eventually becomes her partner.
Official opening is May 22, with performances continuing to June 18. An eccentric supporting cast includes Gwendoline, an actress with a passion for the stage and lunch (played by Deanna Dunagan); Chester Chesterson, the archetypal Broadway producer (Jordan Teplitz); Roland Jameson, a fading matinee idol (Rob Riley); Lola Lorraine, an aging epic bimbo (Meg Thalken); Lee Barry, a talented, amorous actress (Brighid O'Shaughnessy); and lyricist-turned-undertaker-turned-TV director (Brad Harbaugh).
The design team for Cahoots is Mary Griswold (sets); Judith Lundberg (costumes); Todd Hensley (lights); and Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman (sound).
Victory Gardens associate artistic director Sandy Shinner will direct.
Allen's Winter, with Julie Harris, played Victory Gardens last season. The company is known for nurturing works by a stable of resident writers.
Allen's association with Sharon Gless began when Gless and Tyne Daly, Gless' "Cagney & Lacey" co-star, appeared in a 1994 Chicago Theatres on the Air presentation of Deed of Trust.
Chicago Magazine named Claudia Allen the Best Playwright in Chicago in 1999. A member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble, Allen won two Jeff Awards for Victory Gardens' premieres of her plays The Long Awaited and Still Waters, and received a Jeff nomination for Best New Work for Winter last season. All three productions were directed by Sandy Shinner.
Allen's other credits include Hannah Free, The Gays of Our Lives and the critically-acclaimed, long-running late night hit, Xena Live!
Tickets are $18-$30. Victory Gardens Theater is at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., in Chicago. For information, call (773) 871 3000 or check out the website at http://www.victorygardens.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones