The cover of the December 1999 issue of American Theatre asks "What's Going on in Kira Obolensky's Head?"
For three weeks now, New York audiences have been finding out with the Manhattan debut of Lobster Alice, her unique vision of the creative process. Performances began at Playwrights Horizons Dec. 17, 1999, and official opening is Jan. 9.
The play is loosely based on fact and concerns an uptight Hollywood animator who becomes inspired by a visit from surrealist painter Salvador Dali, in 1946 Tinseltown.
Jessica Hecht, who turned characters' nervous energy into indelible performances in Last Night at Ballyhoo and Stop Kiss, will play Alice, assistant to animator John Finch (Reg Rogers, late of Classic Stage Co.'s Look Back in Anger).
The famously mustachioed painter, Dali, will be played by David Patrick Kelly, of "Twin Peaks" and Lincoln Center Theatre's Twelfth Night. Derek Richardson makes his Off-Broadway debut playing the parts of Thurton and Caterpillar. Maria Mileaf, who has staged Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows and regional productions (Art at Chicago's Royal George Theatre), directs Lobster Alice.
The play had its premiere in September 1999 at the Jungle Theatre in Minneapolis. The work has its seeds in research nonfiction writer Obolensky was doing a few years ago: She read that Dali visited the Walt Disney studios for discussions about a animated picture that was never produced. According to "American Theatre" magazine, Dali's supervisor at Disney would work on one of Disney's most surreal and hallucinogenic pictures, "Alice in Wonderland."
Performances for what is called a limited engagement continue to Jan. 23 at the Playwrights Horizons mainstage, 416 W. 42nd St.
Tickets are $37.50. For information, call (212) 279-4200.
Playwright Obolensky won the 1998 Kesselring Prize for Playwriting for Lobster Alice. The prize carries a $10,000 award. Erik Ehn won $2,000 as an honorable mention winner for his play, Beginner.
The 18th annual prize was presented to Obolensky on Nov. 22 at New York's National Arts Club. At that time, a reading of Lobster Alice took place, directed by Michael Parva.
Obolensky, a Williams College graduate, has also penned The Adventures of Herculina and The Whalebone Sonata. She was born in New York and raised in Houston.
The awards are named for Joseph Otto Kesselring, author of Arsenic and Old Lace.
Previous winners have included Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare, Amy Freed's The Psychic Life of Savages, Doug Wright's Quills, Nicky Silver's Pterodactyls, Anna Deavere Smith's Fires in the Mirror and Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.
-- By Kenneth Jones