Hirson's Wrong Mountain Closes at Bway's O'Neill Feb. 5

News   Hirson's Wrong Mountain Closes at Bway's O'Neill Feb. 5 Wrong Mountain, the David Hirson play which opened on Jan. 13 to mostly negative reviews, will close at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on Feb. 5, it was announced. Mountain, which stars Ron Rifkin, began previews on Dec. 27. It will have played 19 previews and 28 performances.
Ron Rifkin, Ilana Levine and Reg Flowers in Wrong Mountain.
Ron Rifkin, Ilana Levine and Reg Flowers in Wrong Mountain. (Photo by Photo by Keith Friedman)

Wrong Mountain, the David Hirson play which opened on Jan. 13 to mostly negative reviews, will close at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on Feb. 5, it was announced. Mountain, which stars Ron Rifkin, began previews on Dec. 27. It will have played 19 previews and 28 performances.

In related news, the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's The Price also announced it would shutter, at the Royale Theatre, but not until March 5. The British import, Copenhagen, will move into the Royale after The Price exits, confirmed a spokesman (see releted story).

As for the O'Neill, many Broadway sources expect the new revival of O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, starring Cherry Jones, to land there, instead of the announced Walter Kerr Theatre. A source close to Waiting in the Wings, the current resident of the Kerr, said the play is expected to stay put.

Stay tuned for further developments on Playbill On-Line.

The closing of both The Price and Wrong Mountain leaves only two proper plays currently running on Broadway, Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings and Peter Shaffer's Amadeus. The only other non-musical productions are one-person shows by Jackie Mason and Dame Edna. *

Mohammed may have come to the mountain, but audiences didn't. After trying various methods to publicize David Hirson's new comedy, Wrong Mountain, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, producers are climbing down and closing the show Feb. 5.

In recent weeks, the show tried to combat mixed reviews and the difficulty of mounting a new non-musical on Broadway with post-show "talk-backs" with the author and $25 discount seats to members of entertainment unions. Even so, the show's weekly grosses were generally among the lowest on Broadway.

Ron Rifkin and Daniel Jenkins star in Wrong Mountain, which began previews Dec. 27, 1999 and opened Jan. 13, 2000. Directed by Richard Jones, this new work by the author of La Bete boasts a number of recent Broadway performers, among them Rifkin (Cabaret), Jenkins (Big) and Ilana Levine (You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown). Tom Riis Farrell (1776) is also in the cast, alongside Beth Dixon, Michael Winters, Bruce Norris (La Terrasse), Reg Flowers, Daniel Davis, Jody Gelb, Anne Dudek and Mary Schmidtberger.

Much of the play is taken up with arguments between a poet, who espouses the high art of verse while spitting on the low craft of playwriting, and theatre folk who understand the blessings of live drama. At play's end, a poem written by the "changed" protagonist, is projected on the curtain, causing audiences to stay in their seats, read and mull over the sentiments, rather than make their usual quick dash for the exits. Discussions soon ensued, and, since author Hirson has attended nearly every performance so far, he's naturally gotten involved with the discussions. Boneau/Bryan-Brown spokesperson Susanne Tighe told Playbill On-Line the producers figured they might as well formalize the proceedings, so they've having official Talk Backs after every show, generally with Hirson, though it's possible cast members will participate as well.

Initially, the play was to start Dec. 4 and open Dec. 14, but producer Michael David said in a statement the change was made so that Wrong Mountain wouldn't get "lost in a rash of openings all trying to get in before the millennial excitement." One assumes the delay also allowed more time to finesse the script and staging, which met with mixed reviews and positive but not quite enthusiastic audience response on the West Coast.

Mountain tried out at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, Oct. 21-Nov. 21, where changes included the excising of one character: a baby, played by actress Pippa Pearthree, who left the production early on. ACT spokesperson Michael Hicks told Playbill On-Line that Hirson has done significant cutting and changing of the script, with the result that the show is "generally tighter."

As for the cast, Rifkin, a veteran stage and television actor, saw his career accelerate after his acclaimed performance in The Substance of Fire. Since then he's won a Tony for his work in the Roundabout's Cabaret. His other Broadway roles include A Month In The Country and Broken Glass.

Actress Levine was relatively unknown until she was picked to play Lucy in last season's revival of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. She also appeared on Broadway in Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo.

Designing Wrong Mountain are Giles Cadle (set and costumes), Jennifer Tipton (lighting) and John Gromada (sound).

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In 1991, La Bete, a rare contemporary verse comedy about an acting troupe forced to compromise its artistic integrity, brought playwright Hirson to Broadway. Reviews were generally good but the play, directed by Jones, had difficulty finding an audience.

In an Oct. 24, 1999 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Hirson noted that the commercial failure of La Bete accounted for his long absence from the footlights. "I went through quite a long period when I was paralyzed," he said, adding that he began thinking in terms of "the image of a man who was being consumed by some kind of parasite, and I really didn't know what that image meant or where it would lead me. And it's one of the reasons I suppose that I launched myself into this second play, to find out what that meant."

In a Jan. 9 interview with the New York Times, Hirson said, "It would disappoint me if the play were viewed simply as some kind of referendum on the experience of La Bete... Certainly I felt people were entitled to love it or hate it. And they did. In fact, they loved and hated it to such extremes that I began to appreciate how unusual an experience it was, not only for a first-time playwright, but any playwright."

For tickets to Wrong Mountain at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 230 West 49th St., call (212) 239-6200.