William Sadler, Polly Holliday and Donald Moffat are among cast members in the world premiere of John Guare's A Few Stout Individuals, opening May 12 under the direction of Michael Greif for Signature Theatre Company in Manhattan.
Previews begin at the Peter Norton Space April 23. Performances continue to June 2.
What's up the sleeve of the playwright who gave us House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation? Here's what the announcement reveals: "A great man is dying penniless. A publisher offers the man a fortune to write his memoirs. How will the family keep him alive to finish?"
Signature, which presents the work of a specific writer for an entire season, devoted its 1998-99 season to Guare. The current season is made up of individual works by writers represented over the past ten years. Next season, Lanford Wilson is the sole focus.
The new Guare play apparently includes such characters as The Emperor of Japan (James Yaegashi), Samuel Clemens (William Sadler), Ulysses S. Grant (Moffat) and his wife (Polly Holliday). The cast features Michi Barall (Carson McCullers at Playwrights Horizons-WPP), Charles Brown (King Hedley II — Drama Desk Award and Tony nominee), Umit Celebi (Chaucer in Rome at Lincoln Center), Cheryl Evans, Mark Fish (Chaucer in Rome at Lincoln Center), Amy Hohn (June Moon at the Drama Dept.), Holliday (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — Tony nominee), T. J. Kenneally, Tom McGowan (La Bete — Tony nominee), Clark Middleton (The Late Henry Moss at Signature), Moffat ("Regarding Henry," "The Evening Star"), Sadler ('The Green Mile," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Roswell") and Yaegashi (Macbeth at TFANA).
Designers are Allen Moyer (set), Gabriel Berry (costume), Jim Vermeulen (lighting) and David Van Tieghem (sound). Production Stage Manager will be Michael McGoff. Guare's plays include To Wally Pantoni We Leave a Credenza (his debut, Off-Off-Broadway, in 1964); Muzeeka (1967), his breakthrough production which won an Obie Award; Cop Out (1968); The House of Blue Leaves (1971), which won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as Best American Play of 1971 and four Tony Awards for its 1986 revival; Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971); Marco Polo Sings a Solo (1973); Rich and Famous (1974); Landscape of the Body (1977); Bosoms and Neglect (1979); Moon Over Miami (1988); Six Degrees of Separation (1990), for which he won an Obie Award, The New York Drama Critics Circle Award, London's Olivier Award for Best Play (it was also a film); Four Baboons Adoring the Sun (1992), which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play; Lake Hollywood (1999), which received its world premiere at Signature Theatre Company, and Chaucer in Rome (2001).
Guare's series of plays on 19th-century America, Gardenia (1982), Lydie Breeze (1982) and Women and Water (1984), have been performed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, DC, London and Australia. His libretto with Mel Shapiro for the musical Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971) won the Tony Award; the musical won the Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical in 1972. He wrote the book for Broadway's current Sweet Smell of Success.
Director Greif is widely known for directing Rent. Other credits includes Dogeaters, Randy Newman's Faust, Tony Kushner's Slavs! and, for The Public Theater, Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day, Connie Congdon's Casanova, José Rivera's Marisol, and Shakespeare's Pericles. He most recently directed Monster at Classic Stage Company.
Founded in 1991 by artistic director James Houghton, Signature Theatre Company spent its first four seasons (focusing on the playwrights Romulus Linney, Lee Blessing, Edward Albee and Horton Foote) at the 77-seat theatre at Kampo Cultural Center (Bond Street) until the center underwent construction. Finding itself homeless, Signature rented the 109-seat Susan Stein Shiva Theater from the New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theater, where the company presented the works of Adrienne Kennedy and Sam Shepard. The 1997-98 season saw the inauguration of Signature's new home at 555 W. 42nd Street, where the works of Arthur Miller, John Guare (1998-99 Season) and Maria Irene Fornes (1999-2000) were presented, including world premieres of Miller's Mr. Peters' Connections, Guare's Lake Hollywood and Fornes' Letters From Cuba.
In March 2000, Signature dedicated its new theatre as The Peter Norton Space in honor of the art collector, philanthropist and computer entrepreneur.
Signature's Peter Norton Space is located at 555 W. 42nd Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues). The performance schedule for mainstage productions is 8 PM Tuesday through Saturdays. 2PM matinees Saturdays and 3 PM Sundays. Single tickets are $50. For subscription and ticket information, call (212) 244-PLAY. For additional information, visit signaturetheatre.org.
— By Kenneth Jones