FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE: Mike Nichols is making a sharp, 90-desgree turn in life. The distinguished director of stage and screen is only now getting around to making his film-acting bow, reprising for the cameras the performance he gave last year on the London stage in The Designated Mourner. In keeping with this hat-switching event, its author is an actor (Wallace Shawn), and its director is a playwright (David Hare).
HOW SWEET (AND GUERNSEY) IT IS: The first, and last, word on the best plays of the year just hit bookstores, courtesy of Limelight Editions. Historian Otis L. Guernsey and playwright Jeffrey Sweet, who've taken up the Burns Mantle mantle, have singled out the following 10 for inclusion in their Theater Yearbook: The Best Plays of 1995-1996 (No. 77 in the annual series): Jonathan Larson's Rent, Terrence McNally's Master Class, Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney, Jon Robin Baitz's A Fair Country, Caryl Churchill's The Skriker, August Wilson's Seven Guitars, Nicholas Wright's Mrs. Klein, Stephen Bill's Curtains, Athol Fugard's Valley Song and Richard Nelson's New England.
LOVE! IN THE SUN: The Tony-winning play McNally did the year before his Tony-winning Master Class really wowed 'em, in film form, at the Sundance Fest: Love! Valour! Compassion! got a standing ovation and considerable journalistic jumping-for-joy, but Fine Line is holding up its release until May 6 (by which time its Shine should be dimming). L!V!C! stars all but one of the original stage cast. . . .
YES, NATHAN: The one that got away, Nathan Lane, left his Tony-winning role in Forum to Whoopi Goldberg so he could rush to the waiting arms of Steven Spielberg for DreamWorks' Mouse Hunt. No doubt Whoopi approved. She left Broadway for Spielberg, too -- and he made her a star in The Color Purple. . . . McNally isn't the only gay playwright named Terrence of note, although the other is an "r" short. You can read about Terence Rattigan this spring when St. Martin's releases in the U.S. the Geoffrey Wansell bio that had London critics cheering: Terence Rattigan. His hits included Separate Tables, The Browning Version, The Winslow Boy and The Deep Blue Sea.
-- By Harry Haun