What is it about uncles in new American plays? Austin Pendleton's Uncle Bob is cantankerous and embittered. Paula Vogel's How I Learned To Drive features the drunken pedophile Uncle Peck. Tommy's Uncle Ernie also likes to "fiddle around" with his deaf and blind nephew.
Now there's Uncle Alton, who's just returned from more than a decade in prison on a murder rap to find his family and hometown changed forever.
Lannie Hill's new play, directed by Daniel Kleinfeld (House of Candles' Sweeney Agonistes), started previews May 7 for a May 9 opening at Todo Con Nada's Off-Off-Broadway Piano Store space. Produced by Todo con Nada and Oberon Theatre Ensemble, Uncle Alton stars Ed Gilmartin, Susan Anderson, Tom Reid, Ed Cusick, Trista Newyear (who also composed the show's music) and Josie Whittlesey. Designing the show are Elizaeth Gaines (lighting) and Karen Flood (costumes).
Production spokesperson Stephen Pitalo told Playbill On-Line (May 6) that Uncle Alton mixes its realistic story with a "Southern gothic tendency and some spiritual, religious sequences... Kind of like the Angel scenes in Angels In America."
Other works by Mississippi playwright Hill include Spindrift, The Dreams Cycle and Dreams of My Parents. For tickets ($12) and information on Uncle Alton at The Piano Store, 158 Ludlow St., through May 31 call (212) 420-1466.
-- By David Lefkowitz