This-coming season, Off-Broadway's Pearl Theatre Company will fall on Hard Times. They'll also wander through The Forest until reaching a School For Scandal. Well, at least Richard and Julie will be along for the ride.
In its 13 seasons, the Pearl Theatre Company offered 14 Shakespeare plays and half-a-dozen by Shaw and the Greek tragedians, but as they've settled into their recent home on St. Marks Place in the East Village, they've also been able to take more chances, such as last season's production of Ionesco's absurdist, The Chairs. The Pearl's 1997-98 season will also push boundaries a bit, with Alexandr [sic] Ostrovsky's The Forest and an adaptation of Charles Dickens' Hard Times by Stephen Jeffreys.
Here's the Pearl season line-up:
Hard Times, Stephen Jeffreys adapts Dickens' 1854 novel of the same title, with an unfortunate marriage and brotherly love at the center of the circusy story. Directed by Lou Jacob. (Aug. 26-Oct. 5, opens Sept. 8)
The Forest, Alexandr Ostrovsky's epic 1870 romp about down-and out actors. Directed by artistic director Shepard Sobel. (Oct. 21-Nov. 30, opens Nov. 3) The School For Scandal, Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1777 comedy tells of Lady Sneerwell and Sir Peter Teazle, who hopes to keep his wife uncitified. Directed by Malcolm Morrison. (Dec. 16-Jan. 25, 1998, opens Dec. 29)
Richard II, from William Shakespeare: "For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings!" Directed by Sobel. (Feb. 10, 1998-March 22, 1998, opens Feb. 23)
Miss Julie, August Strindberg's drama of a master's daughter wandering into the servant's quarters, only to be seduced -- and destroyed -- by the valet. (April 7, 1998-May 17, 1998, opens April 20)
In his note to subscribers in the Pearl's "Playgoer's Supplement" of July 1997, artistic director Shepard Sobel wrote, "Our entire focus in 1997-98 will be on the plays and the players. We have worked our way up the ladder and will sign a League of Resident Theatres' contract with Actors' Equity Association -- no waivers, no compromises, no excuses."
Sobel also told Playbill On-Line, "We're still considered Off-Broadway, as far as Equity is concerned, but the new contract is one used mostly by regional theatres. It makes more sense to us being a repertory company than one for an Off-Broadway show. It's a nice stepping stone for us, and lends a certain cache inside the industry."
The Pearl's resident acting company includes Robin Leslie Brown, Joanne Camp, Bradford Cover, Hope Chernov, Christopher Moore, Anna Miinot, Charol Schultz, Edward Seamon, John Wylie and Arnie Burton (currently Off-Broadway in Mere Mortals).
Again, from Sobel's notes to the subscribers about the season: "Look for a single, expressive, perfectly executed visual element that suggests a world without reconstructing each of its walls. Look for clean lines and simple statements in the costumes that offer the actors a definitive flair, but do not overwhelm the audience with extravagance."
For the early years of the Pearl Theatre, you might want to check out David Hapgood's authorized book, The Year Of The Pearl. For subscription information on the Pearl Season, call (212) 598-9802.
--By David Lefkowitz