Houston's Alley Premieres Synergy, Foote's Carpetbagger; Nelson's General

News   Houston's Alley Premieres Synergy, Foote's Carpetbagger; Nelson's General Two world premieres and the return of Corin Redgrave to Texas head up the Alley Theatre's season 2000-01 in Houston, TX. Keith Reddin's Synergy and the specially-commissioned The Carpetbagger's Children, by Pulitzer Prize winner Horton Foote, make their debuts on the smaller Neuhaus Arena Stage. Redgrave, best remembered for his role as the warden in Not About Nightingales, returns as Benedict Arnold in Tony Award-winner Richard Nelson's The General From America, playing the Large Stage in the spring.

Two world premieres and the return of Corin Redgrave to Texas head up the Alley Theatre's season 2000-01 in Houston, TX. Keith Reddin's Synergy and the specially-commissioned The Carpetbagger's Children, by Pulitzer Prize winner Horton Foote, make their debuts on the smaller Neuhaus Arena Stage. Redgrave, best remembered for his role as the warden in Not About Nightingales, returns as Benedict Arnold in Tony Award-winner Richard Nelson's The General From America, playing the Large Stage in the spring.

But first, the Alley season kicks off with Shakespeare's best-known comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, playing Oct. 6-Nov. 4 on the Large Stage. Jonathan Scarfe (the Alley revival of The Real Thing) stars as the trickster fairy Puck who sends the love lives of Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena into chaos with a secret love potion. Alley artistic director Gregory Boyd helms this production, set to highlight the Alley's acting company.

British director Stephen Rayne (the Alley's A View From the Bridge, the national tour of The Civil War) takes on some British material with Patrick Marber's Tony-nominated play, Closer. The dark comedy about the coupling and uncoupling of four selfish Londoners run Oct. 20-Nov. 19 on the Neuhaus Arena Stage.

Rayne also returns for the annual Christmas production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, running on the Large Stage Nov. 20-Dec. 31.

Not About Nightingales' James Black will star as Equus' psychologist determined to find the cause of a young man's savage blinding of six horses in rural England, playing on the Large Stage Jan. 12-Feb. 10. Boyd directs this revival of Peter Shaffer's 1975 Tony Award winning drama. Shaffer is the author of Amadeus, Lettice and Lovage and The Royal Hunt for the Sun. Synergy makes its premiere on Feb. 2-March 4 on the Neuhaus Arena Stage. In this black comedy, Deb finds her dental checkup is actually a meeting with the Devil who trades her death for a parcel of souls. In order to fill her part of the bargain, Deb seeks out the perfect place to find fodder for Satan: the Disney Corporation. Reddin, a resident playwright at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, is the author of Rum and Coke, Life During Wartime, Black Snow and The Innocents' Crusade.

Meanwhile, on the Large Stage, farce rules with a revival of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear, running Feb. 23-March 24. The Alley Theatre actors company will again be highlighted in this Boyd-directed production. Already revived once at the Alley (and at New York's Roundabout Theatre) in the last 10 years, the comedy about one wife's suspicions of infidelity and the mistaken identities and confusion that result has proved popular with Houston audiences.

Donald Margulies' 2000 Pulitzer Prize winner, Dinner With Friends, makes its Houston premiere in a co-production with California's Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The emotional comedy about two 40-something couples falling apart and staying together as they age runs April 6-May 5 on the Large Stage.

Redgrave gives voice to America's best known traitor, General Benedict Arnold, in Nelson's The General From America, running May 18-June 17 on the Large Stage. Nelson directs his own historical drama of the defection of Arnold to the British side during the Revolutionary War and the events that lead from that to his death. Nelson recently penned the Tony Award winning book to James Joyce's The Dead and Olivier Award winning Goodnight Children Everywhere, which he also directed.

The final production of the season will be the world premiere of Foote's The Carpetbagger's Children, a drama specially commissioned by the Alley Theatre. Told as monologues spoken by three women, Children recounts the story of a man who came to Confederate Texas as a Union soldier, fell in love with the land and then returned to make his home there. Former Alley associate artistic director (and current Hartford Stage artistic director) Michael Wilson returns to direct this premiere from the author of The Young Man From Atlanta and The Trip To Bountiful.

Season subscriptions are available. The Alley Theatre is located at 615 Texas Avenue. For ticket information, call (713) 228-8421.

*

Aside from the season offerings, there will be a special performance by Broadway's Linda Eder, star of husband Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde and The Civil War, co-presented by the Alley with the Houston Symphony at near by Jones Hall. Tickets are $125-$20 and available by calling (713) 228-8421.

*

In Alley company news, the theatre is currently working to expand its actors residency program from 8 members to 24 over the next three season. Four gentlemen will join the current list of eight, including Not about Nightingales's James Black. They are James Belcher (The Play About the Baby), Juilliard graduate David Rainey and Ty Mayberry and Todd Waite, two vets of the Alley's As Bees in Honey Drown. Boyd will continue to add actors to this company through the next few seasons.

The additions help ease the season's losses. After 14 seasons with the Alley, company member Annalee Jeffries will spend 2000-01 in Denver with Sir Peter Hall's production of Tantalus, while John Feltcher moves to New York to continue his career there.

-- By Christine Ehren