It's official: A Cherry Orchard featuring Kathleen Chalfant, David Strathairn and Barnard Hughes will grow at the Long Wharf Theatre Sept. 19-Oct. 21. The oft-revived classic drama kicks off the New Haven company's mainstage season, but it's the Stage II season which will feature two world premieres in 2001-02: David Schulner's An Infinite Ache and Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman.
Infinite Ache opens the Stage II season Oct. 17-Nov. 18. Greg Leaming directs this new play, a contemplation on life, love and the many paths two lives can take. As lonely twenty-somethings Hope and Charles end their rather boring first date, all the possible ways their relationship — and the rest of their lives — can go come rushing up to meet them. Schulner, recently added to the South Coast Repertory Theatre's literary staff, is the author of Isaac, a reimagining of the Biblical tale of Isaac, Abraham and Sarah.
Yelloman takes its title from the skin-tone definition among African Americans, those who are dark skinned and the lighter-skinned persons who are considered "yellow." In the play, dark-skinned Alma and light-skinned Eugene feel destined to love one another, if they can overcome their prejudices against each other's color. The Wilma Theater's artistic director Blanka Zizka directs this drama, produced by Long Wharf in association with the Wilma Theatre and the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. Orlandersmith also penned Monster and The Gimmick.
The final entry on Stage II will be Harry Kondoleon's Play Yourself, running Dec. 12-Jan. 20. Directed by Long Wharf artistic director Doug Hughes, Play Yourself is a comedy about a bored ex-movie star who courts a fan looking for information about her career, only to be surprised by what transpires during their meeting.
As mentioned earlier, Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard begins the fall season on the mainstage. Chalfant portrays Ranevskaya who owns the cherry orchard at the center of The Cherry Orchard, a bit of family land that has to be sold off to pay debts. What hurts her as much as losing this bond to her dead son and her own childhood is the man purchasing the property, a formerly destitute merchant of no social standing (Strahairn) who plans to cut down her trees and profit from her land. Hughes will play Firs. Following Cherry Orchard will be a revival of Hugh Leonard's Tony Award-winning Da, running Nov. 7-Dec. 16. A co-production with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, this story of reconcilliation between an Irishman and his adopted and now deceased "Da" will be directed by the Long Wharf's Hughes.
Sinan Unel's Off-Broadway hit Pera Palas takes the mainstage Jan. 16-Feb. 17, 2002. Set in Istanbul's legendary Pera Palas Hotel, which inspired both Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and the bar in Casablanca, this epic play traces 70 years of Turkish history through three generations of a family living in Istanbul. Steven Williford directs.
The final production of the season is a revival of Moliere's The Miser, translated and staged by Hughes. This satire of rampant greed runs May 1-June 9, 2002.
The fourth production of the season, playing March 6-April 7, 2002, will be announced shortly.
For season subscriptions, call (203) 787-4282.The Long Wharf Theatre is on the web at http://www.longwharf.org.
— By Christine Ehren