The McCarter Theatre season, which has undergone a series of alterations over the past month, is now complete. Replacing the recently ejected The Vienna Notes by Richard Nelson is Lackawanna Blues, the Ruben Santiago-Hudson starrer which was a sleeper hit at New York's Public Theater this past spring. The production runs from Oct. 16 through Nov. 4, opening on Oct. 19.
As at the Public, Santiago-Hudson (who also wrote the play) will be directed by Loretta Greco and backed up by Bill Sims, Jr. Both Santiago Hudson and Sims won 2001 Obie Awards. Santiago-Hudson won a Tony Award for August Wilson's Seven Guitars, in which he played a gentle and comical philosopher-musician. He has, however, rarely been seen on the New York stage since. He was featured in Henry VIII in Central Park in 1997, and starred Off Broadway in 1998 in Deep Down, a play by Doug Grissom. The following year, he performed in A Raisin in the Sun at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.
Blues takes place in 1956 in Lackawanna, New York and centers on Miss Rachel's boarding house, a gathering spot for "would-be philosophers, petty hustlers, lost souls, and abandoned lovers."
Richard Nelson's The Vienna Notes fell victim to the terrorist assaults of Sept. 11. The McCarter Theatre canceled a scheduled production of the play citing its politically charged plot, which concerns a politician's callous behavior in the midst of a terrorist strike. In a statement, McCarter Artistic Director Emily Mann said, “We are a country in pain. As a theatre dedicated to serving our community, we want to remind everyone of what is best in humanity in the face of evil. The Vienna Notes is a brilliant and timely political drama, but the context in which we would receive the play has changed drastically, and it would be insensitive of us to present the play at this moment in our history. We are searching for an alternative and will notify subscribers and the public as soon as a decision has been made.”
The Broadway theatre may currently be struggling to find audiences, but that hasn't stopped producers from hatching plans to bring new shows into town. Romeo and Juliet, which opened at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton to glowing reviews, may take New Jersey Transit to Manhattan and a Broadway home sometime this fall. A spokesman at the McCarter told Playbill On-Line that several producers have taken in the show, which netted raves from Variety and the New York Times.
Talks are in their early stages at this point, but the aim would be one of Broadway's intimate playhouses, such as the Booth or Helen Hayes.
Interest in the production is somewhat surprising given that director Emily Mann has populated her version of the Tragedy of Verona with unknowns, including a Romeo and Juliet just out of school. Jeffrey Carlson plays the young Montague and Sarah Drew, who is 20 and still attending the University of Virginia, plays the Capulet daughter. Drew was particularly singled out for praise in reviews.
The rest of the cast is made up by Remy Auberjonois, Sterling K. Brown, David Cromwell, Johnny Giacalone, David Greenspan, Mirjana Jokovic, Karl Light, Christopher Rivera, Steven H. Rowe, Myra Lucretia Taylor and Joe Wilson, Jr. There is no word on whether the original cast would remain with the show, if it moved to New York.
Past McCarter productions which have made the jump to Broadway include Having Our Say and Electra with Zoe Wanamaker.
Though one of Shakespeare's best known and loved plays, Romeo and Juliet has received few recent high-profile productions in New York. The tragedy has not seen Broadway in many years.
The recently announced 2001-02 McCarter season includes:
• Romeo and Juliet directed by Emily Mann, Sept. 11-30
• Lackawanna Blues by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Oct. 16-Nov. 4
• A Christmas Carol, Dec. 6-30
• All Over by Edward Albee, directed by Emily Mann, Feb. 12-March 3, 2002
• Humpty Dumpty by Eric Bogosian, directed by Jo Bonney, March 26-April 14, 2002
• Don Juan by Moliere, directed by Stephen Wadsworth, April 30 May 19.
—By Robert Simonson