Tony-winner Nathan Lane returns to the stage in a new comedy by Jon Robin Baitz. Sporting the unlikely title Mizlansky/Zilinsky or "schmucks", the play began previews Jan. 27 and opens Feb. 17 at the mainstage of Off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC).
Lane's Broadway credits include the 1992 Guys and Dolls revival and the 1996 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum revival, which won him a Tony Award. His film appearances include the 1996 The Birdcage. Lane has made several notable appearances at MTC, most recently in Love! Valour! Compassion!, which later moved to Broadway.
Lewis J. Stadlen, who played Senex opposite Lane in Forum, will star with Lane in Mizlansky. The two play a pair of crooked movie moguls. Stadlen's other credits include Minnie's Boys and the 1974 Candide.
Paul Sand has also joined the cast as a down-on-his-luck TV star. Best known for the TV show "Paul Sand Friends & Lovers," Sand is making his first NY stage appearance since the late 1970s. His credits include 1977's Tales Of The Hasidim, for Paul Sills' troupe at the Public Theatre. He also appeared in Neil Simon's The Star Spangled Girl (1967).
Completing the cast are Mark Blum (Lost In Yonkers), Jennifer Albano, Glenn Fitzgerald and Larry Pine (Bus Stop at Circle in the Square). Designing Mizlansky are Santo Loquasto (set), Ann Roth (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting). Baitz's tale of Hollywood low-lifes received a radio reading at Los Angeles Theatre Works, Oct. 22-25. That reading featured Lane, Sand, Ron Rifkin, Rob Morrow, Sydney Pollack and Harry Shearer. Mizlansky was first staged at L.A. Theatre Works in 1985 and has since been expanded by its author.
Ron West, who directed Mizlansky/Zilinsky for KCRW, 89.9 FM, called the piece ideal for radio because, "the jargon used by these Hollywood schemers is so right on, so dead-perfect, the listener is immediately drawn into their world of wheeling and dealing."
When New York's Manhattan Theatre Club announced is 1997-98 season, hopes were high that Terrence McNally's oft-postponed new drama, Corpus Christi, would finally reach the stage. Though intended to play at the theatre in Feb. 1998, Corpus Christi was officially canceled once again and replaced by this reworking of Baitz's first play, originally titled, Mizlanski-Zilinksi, Or, Schmucks. The irony here is that Baitz's real-life steady, Joe Mantello, was scheduled to direct Christi. He will now stage M/Z.
Mantello previously directed McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! -- a staging so memorable, Mantello filed a lawsuit when a Florida theatre's production of L!V!C! seemed to mirror the MTC/Broadway version too closely. Also an actor, Mantello starred in Angels In America and The Baltimore Waltz. Other works by McNally include The Ritz, Master Class and The Lisbon Traviata. A contemporary exploration of good and evil, Corpus Christi, is set in Corpus Christi, TX, which is McNally's home town. Thirteen male actors were to comprise the Corpus corps.
Shows at Manhattan Theatre Club are staged on the theatre's large, proscenium mainstage and its 3-sided Stage II (for more intimate/experimental works). Both stages are located in the company's City Center home on West 55th Street. Sam Shepard's Eyes For Consuela opens Feb. 10 on the Second Stage. The new drama is based on a story by Octavio Paz ("The Blue Bouquet"). When an American traveler in a Mexican jungle meets a bandit, both must make sacrifices for the women they love. One of the men collects human eyeballs. Shepard's plays include the Pulitzer-winning Buried Child, Curse Of The Starving Class, True West and Fool For Love.
David Strathairn stars in Consuela, which also features Tanya Gingerich, Jose Perez and Daniel Faraldo. Strathairn last appeared on Broadway in The Three Sisters, opposite Amy Irving and Jeanne Tripplehorn.
Terry Kinney, co-founder of Chicago's Steppenwolf company, directs the Shepard play, which has sets by Santo Loquasto, lighting by Jennifer Tipton, costumes by Walt Spangler and sound by Rob Milburn.
Following Eyes on Stage II will be the American premiere of Phyllis Nagy's comedy, Disappeared, previewing April 14, opening May 5. When a woman disappears from a noirish, Hell's Kitchen bar, intrigue and hysteria ensue. The play was a runner-up for the 1995 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which honors English-language plays written by women.
MTC currently boasts more than 20,000 subscribers. For subscriptions ($185-$200) and information on Manhattan Theatre Club's upcoming season call (212) 399-3030 or check out their website at http://www.mtc-nyc.org
-- By David Lefkowitz