Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company will open its 1998-99 mainstage season with Charles L. Mee's The Berlin Circle Oct. 4. The production, directed by ensemble member Tina Landau (Floyd Collins), started previews Sept. 24 for a run through Nov. 15.
The Berlin Circle is based on a Chinese fable and set in 1989 East Germany after the fall of Communism, where, in the chaos of crashing economies, a young woman takes care of an abandoned baby. Lee's other works include Trojan Women: A Love Story and Orestes, also directed by Landau. Landau last staged Space at Steppenwolf. In New York, she is best known for Floyd Collins, Stonewall Night Variations and 1969, all of which she co-wrote.
Berlin will star Steppenwolfers Mariann Mayberry and Amy Morton. Also in the cast are Ian Barford, Alexandra Billings, Tim Grimm, Voki Kalfayan, Elizabeth Laidlaw, Yasen Peyankov, Daniel Rubin, Matthew Sussman and Troy West. The cast also includes a number of University of Chicago students.
For information, call (312) 335-1888.
* As for the rest of the Steppenwolf schedule, following a Mark Brokaw-directed mounting of The Glass Menagerie (Dec. 3, 1998-Jan. 20, 1999), will be Three Days of Rain (Feb. 11 Apr. 4, 1999) by Richard Greenberg, the story of a famous architect whose will forces his children to probe their family's dark history. Next will be Morning Star (Apr. 22-June 20, 1999), Sylvia Regan's 1940 drama about a widow and her extended family who find themselves caught up in the horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, World War I and the Great Depression; Steppenwolf ensemble member Frank Galati (who staged Livent's Ragtime) directs the piece (which is not to be confused with the Broadway-targeted musical of the same name).
In other Steppenwolf news, the theatre has replaced its previously announced 1999 production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan with another play by the same author, The Beauty Queen of Leenane. The performance dates remain the same, with previews beginning July 8, 1999, for a run through Aug. 29, 1999.
Publicist Stephanie Howard said the Steppenwolf artistic staff had originally wanted to do Beauty, but that the rights to the play were held back in the hope of a commercial run. Steppenwolf is a not-for-profit theatre. A more lucrative offer must not have been in the offing, however, because the rights eventually were made available to the company .
Both Cripple and Beauty opened in New York this past season, the former at the Public Theatre and the latter at the Atlantic Theatre Company. Though a few critics thought Cripple the better play, Beauty was overall the better received and transferred to Broadway, where it is still doing good business.
In further Steppenwolf news:
Jon Robin Baitz's Mizlansky/Zilinsky, or Schmucks will have its Midwest premiere at Chicago, IL's Steppenwolf Theatre Company Studio space. The production will take place in spring 1999, with specific dates to come. No director or actors have been announced.
Mizlansky enjoyed an extended run at New York's Manhattan Theatre Club this past winter. The Joe Mantello-directed production starred Nathan Lane and Lewis J. Stadlen as a pair of outmoded Hollywood hustlers trying to piece together one last get-rich-quick scheme. Steppenwolf produced Baitz's A Fair Country during its 1996-97 season.
The Steppenwolf Studio season kicks off with performance artist Heather Woodbury's one-person, marathon creation, What Ever: An American Odyssey in 8 Acts. The eight-hour piece is familiar to Off-Off Broadway audiences who have caught Woodbury's act as it has evolved over the years. In the play, Woodbury weaves a complicated, cross-country Dickensian yarn featuring ten major characters and 90 supporting players.
The Steppenwolf production will be divided into four evenings, each two acts long. Theatregoers are invited to attend one or all of the segments. What Ever is directed by Dudley Saunders and runs Oct. 8-Nov. 1.
The American premiere of Phyllis Nagy's Disappeared rounds out the Studio season. The play, which is presented in association with Chicago troupe Roadworks Productions, follows Sarah Casey, a young New York travel agent who suddenly vanishes from a seedy Manhattan saloon. In her search for answers, Nagy leads the audience through a grim series of Manhattan locales.
Roadworks ensemble member Abigail Deser will direct Disappeared, which plays Feb. 3-29, 1999.
For information on these shows, call (312) 335-1888.
-- By Robert Simonson