Coming off the success of their Last Train to Nibroc, the 78th Street Theatre Lab turns a bit strange with their latest offering. The group that gave us The Packwood Papers, The Frog Prince, and Jeffrey Sweet's marital drama, With and Without, now offers the New York premiere of Mac Wellman's The Lesser Magoo, April 22-May 9 at The Lab.
The Lesser Magoo, whose title is based on the 1932 Ben Hecht-Gene Fowler comedy The Great Magoo, follows Mr. Candle, an expert on the obscure subject of "Crowe's Dark Space" -- a representation of the spiritual state of contemporary America. Magoo is the fourth and final play in Wellman's critically acclaimed "Crowtet" cycle, all somewhat based on the biblical myth of "Susannah." Other plays in the cycle include: A Murder of Crows, The Hyacinth Macaw and Second-Hand Smoke.
Wellman, who has taught and has influenced many young playwrights at Yale, is considered, along with Erik Ehn (Wolf at the Door, Beginner), one of the nation's foremost "language poets." Wellman denies that it is a movement but acknowledges that certain contemporary playwrights such as himself are interested in the effects of heightened language in the theatre, instead of the "conventional notions of what drama, tragedy and comedy are." Magoo was premiered in 1997, by Los Angeles' Bottom's Dream, a company devoted to the plays of Wellman and Ehn.
Composer Michael Roth, who has previously collaborated with Wellman on the short play, Porcupine Man, has written songs specifically for the production. Another frequent Wellmanite, the OBIE award-winning Kyle Chepulis, will be part of the Magoo team to design sets. Other members of the production team include: Bobby Frederick Tilley III (costumes), Jeff Croiter (lights), and Laura Grace Brown (sound).
David Karl Lee will direct a cast including Elzbieta Czyzewska, Marvin Einhorn, Greer Goodman, Zandy Hartig, C.S. Lee, Theresa Lee, John Marino, Alan Nebelthau, Andrew Pang, Clyde Simon, and Oliver Tobin. In 1997-98, New York hosted a "Mac Wellman Festival" celebrating the playwright's twenty years of influence on theatre with productions of his earlier plays, lectures and a "Mac Wellman Journal." Wellman is the recipient of NEA and Guggenheim Fellowships, numerous OBIE awards, the Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Writer's Award and, in 1998, the New Dramatists' L. Arnold Weissberger Award.
For tickets or more information on The Lesser Magoo call (212) 873-9050.
-- By Sean McGrath