Off-Broadway's American Jewish Theatre has announced its four shows for the 1998-99 season. Though none of the plays is a fairytale, the season will offer Monsters, a Prince, and a show set in that magical, enchanted land, Brooklyn.
The season starts (Oct. 18-Nov. 16) with a heavy hitter: Arthur Laurents, offering the New York premiere of his comedy/drama, My Good Name. Reminiscent of Jon Robin Baitz's The Substance of Fire, Name concerns a Jewish family in the publishing business. Here the kindling for conflict is intermarriage. The show had its world premiere, June 1997, at the Bay Street Theatre in Long Island's Sag Harbor.
According to Bay Street spokesperson Liza Rand, the Laurents play "touches on greed and honor and religious identity." Laurents' previous works include The Radical Mystique, staged in 1995 at NY's Manhattan Theatre Club second stage, and Jolson Sings Again done the same year at Seattle Rep. He's also the librettist for such legendary musicals as Gypsy and West Side Story.
Following My Good Name, what better place to spend late fall than with Miami Beach Monsters, a world premiere musical by Helen Butleroff, author of the well-received revue, Showing Off. Monsters (Nov. 22-Dec. 21) takes place in a retirement home for older, unemployed film actors. The musical's hook? The actors once played the great film monsters, such as Dracula, Frankenstein and Godzilla.
After the New Year, the AJT returns (Mar. 7-Apr. 5, 1999) with The Prince of West End Avenue, Kerry Shales' comedy about a Jewish boy on NY's upper west side and his outrageous family. The play was produced last year at London's Hampstead Theatre. Closing the 26th season (Apr. 18-May 16, 1999) will be a new play by the author of Inventions For Fathers and Sons, Alan Brody. The world premiere drama, Housewives of Mannheim, tells of four Brooklyn Jewish housewives left husbandless during World War II.
It should be noted that season schedules at the AJT need to be taken with a grain of salt. Announced for the 1997-98 season at this time last year were It's Bashert!, Nuremberg, Dreamers and Demons and The Eleventh Commandment -- none of which was actually produced.
As for the end of this season, the American Jewish Theatre currently has two shows running: Never The Sinner, playing at the John Houseman Theatre through May 31, and the one-man drama Uncle Philip's Coat, written by Matty Selman.
The latter play features an actor haunted by memories of his uncle who survived the pogroms in Russia. Developed at the HB Playwrights Foundation, Uncle Philip's Coat is directed by Marcia Jean Kurtz (Time On FIre) and began previews Apr. 25 for an opening May 5 and a run through May 24.
Larry Block, who appeared at Soho Rep in A Devil Inside and City Opera's Wonderful Town, stars in the piece, which has sets by Ray Recht, lighting by Chris Dallos and costumes by Chris Field.
For tickets ($30) and information on Uncle Philip's Coat or other shows at the American Jewish Theatre, 307 West 26th St., call (212) 633-0202.
-- By David Lefkowitz