Few theatres in Chicago are as dedicated to staging new plays as Victory Gardens, which will offer at least two world premieres in its upcoming 25th Anniversary season, Sept. 1998-June 1999.
One of those premieres will feature a legend: Julie Harris. She'll star 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. Victory Gardens' associate artistic director Sandy Shinner directs Winter, which runs May 14-June 20, 1999, opening May 24, 1999.
The world premiere of Rick Cleveland's comedy Danny Bouncing has been announced as the season's third show, running Jan. 22-Feb. 28, 1999. Eric Simonson directs this tale of a young playwright in L.A., who's just survived a bout with testicular cancer and now wants to break into Shelley Winters' jacuzzi. Other plays by Cleveland, who's in residence at Victory Gardens, include Home Grown and You Send Me. Simonson staged The Song of Jacob Zulu on Broadway.
Another VG world premiere will be S.L. Daniel's Rain, River, Ice And Steam, running Nov. 6-Dec. 13 (pushed up earlier in the season due to the recent addition of Danny Bouncing). Directed by the aforementioned Shinner, Rain tells of a rich lady who can buy everything except faith. When she hears of an upcoming "miracle rain," she visits a small town and gets involved with the eccentric locals. Rain was first produced at L.A.'s Moving Arts Theatre in 1997. Opening the season will be a revival of Lonnie Carter's celebrated mix of linguistic playfulness and racial concerns, The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy. Told in black and be-bop dialect (Carter is actually a white NYU professor), Boogedy Boogedy puts King Nebuchadnezzar on trial in ancient Babylon. Other plays by Carter include Lemuel, Gulliver and Gulliver Redux. The Sovereign State of Boogedy Boogedy runs Sept. 11-Oct. 18, opening Sept. 21.
One other play will part of the new season. Under consideration (as of May 5) are Kristine Thatcher's Unfinished Business; Charles Smith Les Trois Dumas and Douglas Post's Forty Two Stories. Each of these writers is a member of VG's in-house Playwrights Ensemble, alongside Lonnie Carter, Steve Carter, Gloria Bond Clunie, Dean Corrin, John Logan, Nicholas Patricca, James Sherman and Jeffrey Sweet.
Sweet is the author of this season's fifth and final show, Flyovers. Stage and film actor William Petersen opened the drama May 21, with Gary Cole replacing him when the show was extended. Sweet's other works include With and Without, The Value Of Names and American Enterprise.
In Flyovers, Cole plays a bully who visits his high school reunion just to pick on his boyhood rival. Also starring are Marc Vann, Linda Reiter and Amy Morton. VG artistic director Dennis Zacek directs.
Designing Flyovers are Jeff Bauer (costumes), Mary Griswold (sets), Todd Hensley (lighting) and Andre Pluess & Ben Sussman (sound).
In other Victory Gardens news, development director Marcelle McVay was recently promoted to managing director, replacing John Walker, who resigned Oct. 24, 1997 to take a position with Warner Brothers.
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