THE LEGENDS CONTINUE: What if Katharine Hepburn actually had flounced off her first film, A Bill of Divorcement, because of the drunken advances of John Barrymore? What if Miriam Hopkins had film-debuted as Bad Sister's good sister instead of Bette Davis? These questions are answered in a hilarious little conceit called Bette and Kate Join the Line, a piece of theatre parading as cabaret at The Duplex through the end of the month. Robert Kahan and Chuck Blasius essay Davis and Hepburn in their unstoppable eighties, still searching for that big break and enduring all manners of indignities to get there (Davis fielding phone messages for Frances Sternhagen, Hepburn auditioning to replace Marilyn Cooper in Grease!). The performers wrote their own winning ticket here; the piece is surprisingly fact-packed and malice-free, and darned if it doesn't deserve an open-ended Off-Broadway airing à la Fairy Tales, which flitted from this Duplex space into the WPA Theatre. . . . Sternhagen, who originated one of Hepburn's four Oscar-winning roles (On Golden Pond), is inheriting one of Hepburn's 12 Oscar-nominated parts (Long Day's Journey Into Night) this month when the Irish Rep reprises Eugene O'Neill's posthumous Pulitzer Prize winner under Charlotte Moore's direction. Brian Murray, who did Barnard Hughes's Tony-winning role (Da) for the Irish Rep, will be doing Fredric March's in this production. . . . The Tony-winning performance Sternhagen gave opposite Hughes (The Good Doctor) was redone by Jane Connell, opposite husband Gordon Connell, when the Melting Pot Theatre rustled up a revival of that seldom-seen Neil Simon comedy and served it at the Theatre of the Riverside Church. Andre DeShields, Stuart Zagnit and Sybil Walker co-starred.
R & J TIMES TWO: There has been a lot of Valentine's Day fallout on 42nd Streetlike, two radically different pairs of Romeo and Juliet. In a version initialed R & J adapted and directed by Joe Calarco at the John Houseman Studio Theatre, four preppies at a repressive boys school (Sean Dugan, Danny Gurwin, Greg Shamie and Daniel J. Shore) take on all the roles. A more conventional version that utilizes both genders got a limited run at the New Victory from The Acting Company, prior to its 25th anniversary national tour.-- By Harry Haun