Uta Hagen and Lorca Simons bring their acclaimed portrayals of teacher and student in Off-Broadway's Collected Stories to New Jersey's George Street Playhouse, April 3-May 2. Officially opening April 7, Donald Margulies' Pulitzer nominated, comedy-drama tells of a strict but effective writing professor finding herself overshadowed by a seemingly naive protegee.
Collected Stories closed Feb. 28 after a six month run at Off Broadway's Lucille Lortel Theatre. Making one of her periodic and heralded returns to the stage, Hagen -- who starred as Martha in the original Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? -- began Collected Stories performances July 28, 1998 toward an Aug. 13, 1998, opening for a run that was intended to go through Oct. 18, then extended until Jan. 3, 1999 - and then beyond.
The New York production was a somewhat unusual one because Margulies' play received its New York premiere only a year earlier at the Manhattan Theatre Club. That staging starred Maria Tucci and Debra Messing (now of "Will and Grace" TV fame) under the direction of Lisa Peterson. William Carden staged the Lortel outing and returns for the NJ mounting.
A hot property with Hagen, Collected Stories was being eyed by such venues as the Kennedy Center and national tour possibilities, but sources say Hagen picked George Street owing to her long-standing friendship with new artistic director David Saint.
"I can personally say that it is a testament to the entire state of New Jersey and its theatre audiences that Ms. Hagen will join us this season," said Saint in a statement. *
Hagen became interested in the work after appearing in the play in spring 1998 at HB Studios, the Manhattan acting school where she has taught since 1947. That show was directed by William Carden and co-starred Lorca Simons, both of whom repeat their roles at the Lortel. Carden directed Hagen in her last New York appearance, in Nicholas Wright's Mrs. Klein, also at the Lortel. Simons' credits include a year with the national tour of Three Tall Women.
Hagen created the roles of Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Georgie in The Country Girl. She played opposite Paul Robeson and Jose Ferrer in Othello and was Nina in the Lunts' production of The Seagull.
For tickets ($37.50-$49.50) and information on Collected Stories at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., call (212) 239-6200. For tickets and information on Collected Stories at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, call (732) 246-7717.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz