Jane Alexander will take a break from Christine Mannon starting May 19 when Gordon Edelstein's streamlined Mourning Becomes Electra closes at Seattle's ACT. But like a school kid, it's only summer break for the much-lauded actress who will return to Eugene O'Neill's daunting work in fall, 2002 at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.
Mourning Becomes Electra is O'Neill's monumental take on Aeschylus' trilogy, The Oresteia. Set in the American south in the years following the Civil War, the play is made up of three parts and a total of 13 acts. Rare stagings of the work have usually clocked in at five hours. But Edelstein received the nod from the O'Neill estate to trim the text down to a brisk three hours, 10 minutes, allotting roughly one hour to each play in the trilogy.
Alexander played the Electra character, called Lavinia by O'Neill, opposite Sada Thompson many years ago. At ACT, she is in the Clytemnestra mode, essaying the O'Neill role of Christine. Alexander has appeared on Broadway in The Great White Hope, 6 Rms Riv Vu, Find Your Way Home, First Monday in October, The Visit, The Sisters Rosensweig and Honour. She was nominated for a Tony Award for every one of these roles, winning for the first. For four years in the 1990's, she served as head of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Joining Alexander are Michael MacRae (Ezra), Mireille Enos (Lavinia), Ragtime's Steven Sutcliffe (Orin), Liz McCarthy (Hazel), Clayton Corzatte (Seth), Jason Cottle (Peter) and Thomas Schall (Brant). The ensemble is Chris Blanchette, Jonathan Frank, Paul Ray and Peter Sill.
Designing the show are Andrew Jackness (sets), Paul Tazewell (costumes), Jennifer Tipton (lighting) and John Gromada (sound, original music). Tickets are $27.50-$44. ACT is located at 7th and Union Street. For reservations, call (206) 292-ARTS. ACT is on the web at http://www.acttheatre.org.
After the Seattle run, Mourning Becomes Electra will play the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut in fall, 2002. Edelstein was recently made artistic director of the Long Wharf and will assume his responsibilites there at the end of June.
—By Christine Ehren
and Robert Simonson