Few theaters in Chicago are as dedicated to staging new plays as Victory Gardens, which ends its 25th Anniversary season (Sept. 1998-June 1999) with a world premiere. And that premiere features a legend: Julie Harris.
She stars in Winter, by Claudia Allen, author of Hannah Free, Still Waters and The Long Awaited. Veteran actor/director Mike Nussbaum co- stars in this look at old age. Nussbaum plays a wheelchair bound man taken care of by his wife -- until she dies first. That's when he meets his childhood girlfriend (Harris) in a nursing home and he, himself, must become the caregiver.
Harris' Broadway credits include The Belle of Amherst and Lucifer's Child. She's been nominated for ten Tony Awards and has received five. Harris is currently finishing up a tour of The Gin Game opposite Charles Durning, with the last city to be Boston, May 4-16. Come autumn, the actress is expected to start work on Scent of the Roses, a Broadway or off-Broadway-bound South African drama that Harris first performed in Seattle in summer 1998.
Nussbaum's New York credits include Elaine May's comedy, Mr. Gogol and Mr. Preen. His Chicago credits include being the very first Teach in American Buffalo.
Victory Gardens' associate artistic director Sandy Shinner directs Winter running June 4-July 18, officially opening June 14. (The run is three weeks later than dates originally announced.) Associate artistic director Sandy Shinner directs Winter, which co stars Meg Thalken and Nancy Lollar.
Victory Gardens has also announced its 1999-00 season, which features another play by Claudia Allen, Cahoots, scheduled for May 12-June 18, 2000. Sharon Gless, best known for playing Christine Cagney on TV's "Cagney & Lacey," stars in this wild comedy about a playwriting team whose life together spans several decades. Winter director Sandy Shinner will also stage Cahoots.
Other plays announced for the new season are:
* Bluff, a new comedy-drama by Jeffrey Sweet, whose Flyovers proved a hit at Victory Gardens this past season and intends to make a Broadway or off-Broadway move this fall. Directed by Sandy Shinner, Bluff will star Jon Cryer ("Sixteen Candles") and Sarah Trigger (TV's "Turks"). The play, which tells of a young romance coping with family baggage, runs Sept. 17-Oct. 24, opening Sept. 27.
* Playing Nov. 12-Dec. 19 and opening Nov. 22, Door To Door is the latest from Beau Jest and Jest a Second scribe, James Sherman. Artistic director Dennis Zacek stages this look of three generations of immigrant Jewish women in Chicago.
* Knock Me A Kiss, playing Jan. 21-Feb. 27, 2000 (opening Jan. 31, 2000), is a love triangle set in 1929 Harlem by the author of The Sutherland and Jelly Belly, Charles Smith.
* Cheryl Lynn Bruce stars as late congresswoman Barbara Jordan in Voice of Good Hope, March 17-April 23, 2000 (opening March 27, 2000). Kristine Thatcher's bio-drama will be directed by Dennis Zacek.
Founded in 1974, the not-for-profit Equity theatre has produced more than 200 plays.
For tickets and information on shows at Victory Gardens Theatre, call (773) 871-3000.
-- By David Lefkowitz