Candy's dandy, and liquor's quicker.
That seems to be the motto of Philadelphia's Arden Theatre company, which has opened its 13th season with George Bernard Shaw's comedy Candida, to be followed by the bar-room ghost stories of The Weir.
Philadelphia veteran Grace Gonglewski stars as the title character of Shaw's play, a look at an attractive married woman being courted by a naive young poet (Sam Henderson). Her clergyman husband (Paul Nolan) is a stable old stick-in-the-mud, but good-hearted nonetheless. Also in the cast are Charles Antalosky, David Bardeen and Holly Twyford. Designing the production are Tony Cisek (set), Dan Covey (lighting) and Margee McCarty (costumes).
Candida started previews Sept. 21 for an opening Sept. 26 and a run ending Oct. 22. (As of Oct. 20, limited tickets were still available for all performances.) Terrence J. Nolen directs the romantic entanglements, whose last major New York mounting starred Mary Steenburgen and Robert Sean Leonard.
Following the Shaw play will be the Philadelphia premiere of The Weir, Conor McPherson's melancholy drama, in which denizens of a backwater Irish pub try to impress an attractive female newcomer with their other-worldly ghost stories, only to be topped by her own tragic tale. James J. Christy directs The Weir on the Arcadia stage, Oct. 26-Dec. 10. Kicking off the Arden's new year will be the world premiere of Dennis Raymond Smeal's Exit Wounds, Jan. 18-March 4, 2001. Stuck delivering pizza after losing his job as a lawyer, a man copes with his recent divorce and the possible onset of madness. The comedy-drama of intertwined monologues received a December 1999 reading as part of Arden's Independence Foundation New Play Showcase. First penned as a solo, Exit Wounds was then expanded into a 90-minute, four character work. Terrence J. Nolen staged the December reading and will direct the full production. No word yet on the cast, but the reading featured Megan Bellwoar, Mary Martello, Ian Merrill Peakes and Greg Wood. Other works by Smeal include When The Jacaranda Blooms and Hearts.
From madness the Arden then turns to divine inspiration, via Steve Martin's absurdist comedy, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, in which the famous painter encounters a young Albert Einstein in a Paris bar. They discuss food, women and the universe, only to be interrupted by another kind of genius: Elvis. Aaron Posner will stage the show, a hit Off Broadway and regionally, on the Otto Haas Stage March 1-April 1, 2001.
Closing the season will be a rarely-revived, big Broadway musical: The Baker's Wife, with music by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell) and a book by Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof). Producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen will stage the show, which tells of a baker's beautiful wife running off with a handyman and sending her husband into a tailspin. One song from the show, "Meadowlark," has become a signature cabaret tune for the likes of Betty Buckley and Patti LuPone.
The Arden Theatre is located at 40 North Second Street in Old City Philadelphia. For tickets or subscription information to the Arden season call (215) 922-1122.
-- By David Lefkowitz