A refurbished house is now home to another "house." Nicholas Martin's new production of John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves opens Sept. 14 in the newly renovated Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
Previews began Aug. 30, christening the venue, which underwent a $30 million renovation in the past year. Three-time Tony Award nominee Kate Burton, John Pankow, Mia Barron and Jane Kaczmarek are among cast members in the dark comedy about American dreamers in Sunnyside, Queens. Performances will continue through Oct. 19.
The cast features (in alphabetical order) Diedrich Bader (TV's "The Drew Carey Show") as Billy, Mia Barron (Lincoln Center's The Coast of Utopia) as Corrinna, Kate Burton (Broadway's Hedda Gabler, The Constant Wife) as Bananas, Angela Goethals (Broadway's Picnic, Off-Broadway's The Good Times Are Killing Me) as The Little Nun, James B. Harnagel as The M.P., James Immekus as Ronnie, Jane Kaczmarek (TV's "Malcolm in the Middle") as Bunny, James Joseph O'Neil as The White Man, John Pankow (TV's "Mad About You," Broadway's Amadeus, Twelve Angry Men) as Artie, Rusty Schwimmer as The Head Nun and Mary Kay Wulf as The Second Nun.
In The House of Blue Leaves, according to Center Theatre Group, which produces work at the Taper, the Ahmanson and the Kirk Douglas theatres in L.A., "the Pope's 1965 visit to New York City brings the hope of answered prayers and a few unexpected guests to an apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, where Artie Shaughnessy, a zookeeper, pines for a new life as a popular songwriter. His dreams of stardom are complicated by a stay-at-home wife who longs for the happiness of their salad days, a pushy mistress who is already packing her bags for Hollywood and an AWOL son with his own plans for becoming famous."
It's billed as "a heartbreakingly human comedy that explores the lengths people will go in pursuit of the American Dream."
* The creative team includes set designer David Korins, costume designer Gabriel Berry, lighting designer Donald Holder and sound designer Philip G. Allen.
John Pankow in The House of Blue Leaves
photo by Craig Schwartz
Music and lyrics are by John Guare with additional music and arrangements by Michael Friedman. Casting is by Erika Sellin, and the production stage manager is James T. McDermott. The play's New York City premiere was in 1971 at Off-Broadway's Truck and Warehouse Theatre. Lincoln Center Theater made a Broadway hit out of it in 1986, and the production was subsequently taped for broadcast. The LCT staging earned 1986 Tonys for performers John Mahoney and Swoosie Kurtz, director Jerry Zaks and set designer Tony Walton. It was also nominated for Best Play.
For tickets and information call (213) 628-2772 or visit www.CenterTheatreGroup.org. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Music Center. Hot Tix may be purchased at $20 each in advance or, subject to availability, on the day of performance at the box office. For groups of 15 or more, call (213) 972-7231.
According to Center Theatre Group, here are some of the details of the $30 million renovation of Mark Taper Forum:
The neo-classic exterior of the Welton Becket-designed building was cleaned, returning the Taper's 378-foot precast concrete mural relief, sculpted by Jacques Overhoff, to its original elegance.
The theatre's lobby has more than doubled in size due to the relocation of the restrooms to a spacious downstairs lounge.
The lobby bar is more accommodating while the lobby's signature abalone shell wall has been preserved with new lighting to showcase the natural beauty of the rare material. The flooring is decorative terrazzo and the lobby ceiling has been raised and lit in a radial grid pattern — creating a shimmering and dramatic entry to the theatre.
The new location for the restrooms on the subterranean level, accessible by both elevator and stairs, provides an increase in capacity that exceeds code for both the women's and men's restrooms. The new 1,350-square-foot lounge offers comfortable, casual seating with two large banquettes, on either end of the lobby, and additional adjacent seating. Richly-textured carpeting and upholstery, mirrored columns and a graceful staircase are highlights of the lounge's interior design.
Inside the auditorium, the unique intimacy of the Taper with its special audience-stage relationship has been retained, with upgrades such as new, more comfortable seats, upholstery, carpeting, and sleek and elegant new railings along the aisles. The theatre's side walls have exciting new design elements and a less cluttered ceiling provides a more open and friendly ambience.
The acoustics of the theatre are also improved to allow theatregoers to hear the spoken word better and without amplification, and a new air conditioning system provides quieter and more even air distribution.
A new logical and well-designed lighting grid replaces the cumbersome grid that has been pieced together over the course of the theatre's history.
Accessibility for patrons with disabilities has been increased in several ways. The floor of the entrance lobby has been raised to the same level as the Music Center Plaza providing direct access. An elevator has been installed to transport patrons from the lobby to both the lounge and the second level of the theatre. An accessible restroom has been added to the second level and new wheelchair locations have been installed on that level.
Backstage, new technology and space improvements bring the theatre to 21st century state-of-the-art standards, enabling CTG to operate more efficiently and to mount exciting new works using multi-media effects. The backstage loading door has doubled in size and, as with the front of the house, the floor of the backstage area has been brought to plaza level. Both changes simplify the loading in and out of the scenery. Relocating the air conditioning and heating units to the roof provide space for a green room, a hair and make-up room and a new wardrobe area.