J. Smith-Cameron, the original Alexa Vere de Vere in the Off-Broadway hit As Bees in Honey Drown, returns to the New York stage in Shelagh Stephenson's The Memory of Water at Manhattan Theatre Club's Second Stage. The production began performances Oct. 15 for a Nov. 10 opening and a limited but unspecified run.
Smith-Cameron has been a staple of Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre for over a decade, but reached a career landmark last year with her mercurial portrayal of the conniving Vere de Vere. Other notable credits from her long resume include Desdemona, Our Country's Good, and, at MTC, Craig Lucas' Blue Window. Also in the cast are Suzanne Bertish, David Hunt, Seana Kofoed, Peter McRobbie and Robin Moseley.
The Memory of Water, which had its American premiere this winter at Steppenwolf Theatre's mainstage. John Tillinger will direct this quiet comedy by British actress Shelagh Stephenson, about three sisters, reunited by their mother's death, who discover a bond deeper than kinship.
Water is Stephenson's first stage play, though she's penned several award-winning radio plays. The piece enjoyed an extended run at London's Hampstead Theatre last year.
* In other MTC news, Treat Williams' return to the New York stage in the musical Captains Courageous will happen Feb. 16, 1999, with previews beginning Jan. 12, 1999. The musical had been on tap for the 1997-98 season at Manhattan Theatre Club until a decision was made to hold off and replace it with A.R. Gurney's Labor Day. Captains Courageous will follow Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi on the MTC mainstage.
Actor Williams, best known for his film work in Hair and Prince of the City, will star. Williams appeared Off-Broadway in Oleanna in 1993, replacing William H. Macy, and on Broadway in Love Letters, opposite Kate Nelligan.
Mandy Patinkin took part in a reading of the musical in October 1996, and then told reporters at the 1997 Tony Awards he was interested in starring, but he hasn't been with the project for months. (This summer he's doing his "Mamaloshen" revue of Jewish/Yiddish songs at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on NY's Lower East Side.)
Captains Courageous, has music by Frederick Freyer and book & lyrics by Patrick Cook. Lynne Meadow directs.
Continuing in the tradition of bringing literary classics to musical theatre (Jekyll & Hyde, Jane Eyre), this new musical is based on Rudyard Kipling's adventure novel of a young boy on the high seas. It's the story of Harvey Cheyne, spoiled son of a wealthy industrialist, who falls overboard and is rescued by working-class Portuguese sailors. The musical, which also uses the John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly & Dale van Every film as its source, was presented previously at Goodspeed Opera House's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.
Athol Fugard's Captain's Tiger comes to MTC's second stage, previewing Dec. 15 and opening Jan. 5, 1999. It tells the autobiographical story of a young writer haunted by a cherished photograph of his mother as a young woman. Fugard, author of Boesman and Lena, Master Harold and the Boys, The Blood Knot and Valley Song, writes and directs.
Fugard directs and stars in the play (as he did in Valley Song), which premiered in Pretoria, South Africa in late August 1997. Following the opening night, Fugard jotted a note to McCarter's artistic director Emily Mann, who was also in attendance: "...a thrilling launch last night. Individual response after the show leaves me in no doubt we have on our hands a play that works."
Following Fugard's colorful Captain will be Chay Yew's Red -- not to be confused with Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1994 film of the same name. Red tells of "a best-selling American writer returning to her native Communist China to research her new book." The trip takes her to the Beijing Opera during the so-called "Cultural Revolution."
Previewing Feb. 23, 1999, Red opens Mar. 9, 1999.
Yew's first play, As If He Hears, was commissioned by Theatreworks in Singapore, where it was initially banned by their government. His A Language of Their Own was given a limited run at L.A.'s Celebration Theatre in 1994 and opened at New York's Public Theatre in 1995. Yew's gay drama Porcelain recently played in Boston.
Yew is presently a resident artist and director of The Mark Taper's Asian Theatre Workshop and Resident Director of the East West Players, where his trilogy, Whitelands (comprised of Porcelain, A Language of Their Own and Half Lives), was presented in repertory in 1996.
Also mentioned on the MTC season schedule (but not part of the company's recent press announcement of the season) is a revival of Arthur Kopit's 1962 farce, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You In The Closet And I'm Feeling So Sad, tells of a scheming lady (Madame Rosepettle) and her "socially challenged son." The MTC brochure notes that the play features "giant Venus flytraps, talking fish and a voracious babysitter named Rosalie."
According to the BackStage Theatre Guide, ODPDMHYITCAIFSS was written when Kopit was still an undergraduate at Harvard University. Other Kopit works include The Questioning of Nick (1957), Indians (1968), Wings (1978), The Day The Whores Came Out To Play Tennis (1965) and the librettos to Phantom and High Society.
Manhattan Theatre Club subscribers have two options: an 8-show "Super Series" or a 5-play option of all four plays on the mainstage plus one of the Stage II works. The theatre currently boasts more than 20,000 subscribers.
For subscriptions ($215-$314) and information on Manhattan Theatre Club shows call (212) 399-3030 or check out their website at www.mtc-nyc.org