Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, the West Coast premiere of Jon Robin Baitz's Ten Unknowns and the world premiere production of August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean are among the highlights planned for the Mark Taper Forum's 2002-03 season.
The topical Homebody/Kabul, kicking off the season Sept. 8-Oct. 27, follows a British woman fascinated by Afghanistan and her encounter with an Afghan man whose fingers were cruelly severed. In the second part, the woman's husband and daughter search to find her in the nation's capital after she has mysteriously disappeared. Homebody had a successful run at Off-Broadway's before traveling on to and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Playbill On-Line reported on Jan. 19 that the Baitz planned to retool his well-received Ten Unknowns for its Taper run. The drama about a recluse artist whose ten unknown paintings are discovered by an aggressive art dealer who wants to thrust him back into the limelight was on the fast track to Broadway in 2001 until it lost its star, Donald Sutherland. Baitz has mentioned such actors as Brian Cox, Ian Holm and Nick Nolte for the Sutherland part in a Taper mounting. Ten Unknowns will play the Taper March 27-May 4, 2003.
Gem of the Ocean, the latest in Wilson's chronicle of African American life throughout the 20th Century, begins its run at the Taper July 31-Sept. 7, 2003. The drama, set in 1904, first plays Chicago's Goodman Theatre April 18-May 24 before moving to Los Angeles. Marion McClinton (King Hedley II) directs Gem, described in press materials thusly: "When Citizen Barlow, in spiritual turmoil, arrives at Aunt Ester's house claiming sanctuary from Caesar, the local constable, he sets into motion a series of events that includes a journey to the City of Bones, which leads to startling discoveries and puts him on a course where duty leads to redemption."
Three home-grown shows will also play the Taper in 2003 — Deaf West Theatre's Big River (Nov. 5-Dec. 29), Lisa Loomer's Living Out (Jan. 30-March 9, 2003) and Culture Clash's Chavez Ravine (May 17 July 6, 2003). The latter two have been developed through the Taper's various new works programs. Deaf West combines hearing and deaf actors in their well-respected revivals of plays and musicals. Big River garnered several L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards and Backstage West Garland Awards in its original run in late 2001. Jeff Calhoun directs the musical, which uses both voice and sign language to recreate this musicalization of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn."
Solo performer Loomer looks at Los Angeles' child care and American Latino relationships as see through the eyes of a West Side Caucasian mommy and her East Side Hispanic nanny in Living Out. Loomer also wrote The Waiting Room and Expecting Isabel.
In Chavez Ravine, Latino comedy troupe Culture Clash revisits the sleepy hillside neighborhood which today lies under Dodger Stadium and its parking lots. Beginning on the first day of baseball at the stadium with the legendary Fernando Valenzuela on the mound, Chavez Ravine works its way back to the early days of the tight-knit, traditional Hispanic neighborhoods that once existed there.
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— By Christine Ehren
and Robert Simonson