Five world premieres, including new works by Anne Meara and David Rabe, grace the 1999-2000 season at CT's Long Wharf Theatre, starting up Sept. 22. Opening the roster is Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (Sept. 24-Oct. 31, officially opening Sept. 29 (for press) and 30, staged by Derek Anson Jones.
Bachelor Benedick and brilliant Beatrice square off in this romantic comedy, re-set in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. Though not a musical per se, the piece incorporates music of the period, making it reminiscent of the Broadway musical Play On!, which adapted several Shakespeare comedies (particularly Twelfth Night) into its framework.
At Long Wharf, James Avery plays Leonato, Jeffrey Owens is Don Pedro, and Caroline Clay plays Beatrice.
Also on tap for the Long Wharf season:
€ Nov. 16-Dec. 19: Syncopation by Allan Knee, directed by Greg Leaming. From the author of Shmulnik's Waltz comes this love story, set in 1911 Manhattan. Through dance, two lonely people are drawn together. Author Knee said in a statement, "While writing it, I tapped into so many parts of myself -- the longing to dance, the longing to partner, the longing to love." € Jan. 19-Feb. 20, 2000: Down The Garden Paths by Anne Meara, directed by David Saint. Saint, artistic director of the George Street Theatre, forged a strong relationship with Meara when he directed the New York, Los Angeles and NJ mountings of her acclaimed After-Play. So successful was that collaboration that Saint has made room in that theatre's 1999-00 schedule (Nov. 20-Dec. 19) for her next, Down The Garden Paths. The story of a family gathering to celebrate the latest novel by an award-winning author, Garden Paths will feature an on film cameo by Meara's real-life husband, Jerry Stiller, playing a quantum physicist.
€ March 8-April 9, 2000: Black Forest by Anthony Giardina, directed by Doug Hughes. This dig at the hermetic world of academia, tells of a male professor and his colleagues at a woman's college as they all battle for tenure.
€ April 26-June 4, 2000: The Good Person of New Haven, adapted from Ralph Manheim's translation of Bertolt Brecht's The Good Woman Of Szechwan by Alison Carey. The piece had a workshop at the 4th International Festival of the Arts in CT, the culmination of "The New Haven Project" begun by Hughes and Cornerstone Theatre Company founders Bill Rauch and Alison Carey. The production will not only be transported to present-day Connecticut but will involve everyday New Haven citizens. Work toward that goal began in October 1997, when Hughes discussed the idea with Rauch and Carey. The Cornerstone, based in L.A., was formed upon the notion that society flourishes only when its disparate members come to know and respect each other. The company has since executed community-based theatre projects in New York and Washington, D.C. In summer 1998, the Long Wharf held a series of community meetings to select a play. After poring over several works, those involved chose the Brecht piece, seeing many aspects of New Haven life in its themes. The Good Woman of Szechwan concerns Shen Te, a kind-hearted prostitute who becomes unexpectedly wealthy, but finds the only way she can avoid bankruptcy at the hands of a rapacious community is to invent a ruthless alter-ego, Shui Ta.
€ Oct. 13-Nov. 21, 1999: The Shoulder, a three-actor musical composed by Dan Moses Schreier; written & directed by Dan Hurlin. Inspired by a true story, The Shoulder tells of an Iowa with failing eyesight whose brother is dying. Since he can no longer drive, the farmer rides a tractor five miles per hour down the highway to make the trip.
€ Feb. 9-March 19, 2000: Corners, by David Rabe, directed by Scott Ellis. The latest from the author of Streamers, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, Those the River Keeps and A Question of Mercy, Corners is set on the street corners of New York and follows the strange, sad and humorous lives of the folks who populate them. Said Rabe in a statement, "We like to think we live our lives on the basis of fact, but facts are hard to come by. Most events occur somewhere between objective claims and subjective aims."
€ April 12-May 21, 2000: Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen, translated and directed by Doug Hughes. Filmdom's Martha Plimpton plays Hedda, a woman who marries for prestige and comfort but discovers her needs aren't being met by her workaday husband. Plimpton, best known for her work in such films as "Running on Empty," "Another Woman," "Parenthood" and "I Shot Andy Warhol," has recently been very active on regional stages. She played Laura in The Glass Menagerie at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre (she's an ensemble member there) and starred in Steppenwolf and Long Wharf's Playboy of the Western World last season. New York stage productions include Pericles at the Public Theatre.
For tickets and information on the Long Wharf season call (203) 787 4282.
-- By David Lefkowitz