Miller's Mt. Morgan & La Chiusa's Party Mulled For Public Season

News   Miller's Mt. Morgan & La Chiusa's Party Mulled For Public Season
 
Though only one show has been definitely announced (as of May 4) for the 1998-99 season at NY's Joseph Papp Public Theatre (Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird, starring Marian Seldes (Ivanov, Three Tall Women), three other works are serious contenders, according to a brochure mailed by the Public to solicit subscriptions.

Though only one show has been definitely announced (as of May 4) for the 1998-99 season at NY's Joseph Papp Public Theatre (Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird, starring Marian Seldes (Ivanov, Three Tall Women), three other works are serious contenders, according to a brochure mailed by the Public to solicit subscriptions.

The three other pieces under serious consideration for the 1998-99 season are:
* Pericles, the William Shakesepeare comedy/drama/fantasy, to be directed by artistic associate Brian Kulick (A Dybbuk).

* Wild Party, artistic director George C. Wolfe directs a new musical by Michael John LaChiusa (The First Lady Suite, The Petrified Prince). LaChiusa, who earned a cult following with his Hello Again Off-Broadway and Chronicle of a Death Foretold on Broadway, is also collaborating with director-choreographer Graciela (Ragtime) Daniele on the Broadway-bound Marie Christine, which is described as "a quasi-operatic version of Medea, set in 1880s New Orleans and Chicago."

* The Ride Down Mt. Morgan. Why shouldn't the Public Theatre be part of the Arthur Miller renaissance? This New York premiere will be directed by Scott Elliott (Present Laughter). Elliott directed the show's U.S. Premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in July 1996. Miller plays revived in NY during the 1997-98 season included A View From The Bridge, All My Sons and The American Clock.

* As for Tongue of a Bird, author McLaughlin provided one of the most memorable theatre images of the 1990s, playing the angel in Angels in America, before turning to playwriting. She debuted her latest drama, Tongue of a Bird at Seattle's Intiman Theatre and then brought it to London's Almeida in November 1997.

One unusual aspect of the Seattle production: everyone in the cast, design and production team was a woman, led by director Lisa Peterson. Tongue of a Bird is described as "the powerful and poetic story of a search-and-rescue pilot who hunts for an abducted girl, while trying to come to terms with the loss of her own mother. . . about one woman's lost child, and another's lost childhood."

Originally commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the play was developed in Seattle in a February 1997 reading on the "New Voices at Intiman" series. The mainstage premiere was made possible by a grant from "AT&T OnStage."

McLaughlin's other plays include "Iphigenia and Other Daughters," "A Narrow Bed," "Infinity's House" and "Days and Nights Within."

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Also expected from the NY Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre is the return of On The Town, with rehearsals scheduled to get underway in August for an opening at a Broadway house in October. Artistic director George C. Wolfe will again direct as he did at the Delacorte, though no choreographer has yet been chosen. (According to the Public Theatre press office, reached Apr. 21, Wolfe is home recuperating well from recent surgery.) As of Apr. 21, casting and venue have not yet been announced.

A dispute between director Wolfe and choreographer Christopher d'Amboise was blamed for postponing the planned Broadway transfer of the successful summer 1997 Central Park revival of On the Town, The New York Times reported Jan. 12.

The production, which was announcing casting as late as Jan. 6, was to have started rehearsals Feb. 24 and previews Apr. 7 at the St. James Theatre. The Times quoted a spokesperson for The Public Theatre, the revival's primary producer, as saying the production has been postponed until the fall 1998, presumably with a different choreographer.

The spokesperson said d'Amboise left the project owing to "genuine creative differences concerning the dance sequences that could not be resolved," between Wolfe and d'Amboise.

Choreographic problems have dogged this revival of the nearly through danced Leonard Bernstein/ Betty Comden/ Adolph Green musical, which grew from the Jerome Robbins ballet, "Fancy Free." Several times during the 1997 Delacorte Theatre engagement, condensation on the outdoor stage required choreographer Eliot Feld's dance sequences to be dropped in mid performance. Though the revival generally got excellent reviews, especially for comedienne Lea DeLaria as the randy cab driver, Feld's work was seriously questioned, and he withdrew from the Broadway transfer. Now d'Amboise has done the same, and a new choreographer will have to be found.

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As for the rest of this season at the Public Theatre:
as Broadway readies for the Apr. 23 transfer of Martin McDonagh's Beauty Queen of Leenane, Off-Broadway audiences have only a few more weeks to catch the same author's The Cripple of Inishmaan. Cripple runs to May 10, extended past its original Apr. 19 close, with tickets still available for the dates in May. McDonagh's dark comedy was such a hot ticket, the extension was done even before the show opened at the Public Theatre, Apr. 7.

The Cripple Of Inishmaan is directed by Jerry Zaks (A Funny Thing...Forum). Nicholas Hytner (Carousel, The Madness Of King George) was originally scheduled to direct as he did in London, but he had to finish shooting and post-producing the Wendy Wasserstein scripted film, The Object Of My Affection.

In the UK, Inishmaan, McDonagh's bawdy dark comedy, transferred (April 30) from the Cottesloe to the larger Lyttleton Theatre on the West End for a run through Aug. 31.

Inishmaan concerns the gossiping and infighting of a town so small, a sheep born with no ears constitutes big news. When legendary Hollywood documentary director Robert Flaherty arrives to film his Man Of Aran, the whole town wants to get into the act, none more than 18 year-old "Cripple Billy," who sees the production as his ticket out of Inishmaan.

Only one cast-member from the London production is in the U.S. staging: Ruaidhri Conroy. Co-starring with him at the Public will be Eileen Brennan, Donal Donnelly, Christopher Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Franz (Jitta's Atonement at the Berkshire Festival), Michael Gaston, Peter Maloney, Roberta Maxwell (1996's Summer and Smoke at the Roundabout) and Aisling O'Neill.

Designing the show are Brian Nason (lighting), Tony Walton (set), Ann Roth (costumes), Sage Marie Carter (projections) and Guy Sherman (sound).

Inishmaan concerns the gossiping and infighting of a town so small, a sheep born with no ears constitutes big news. When legendary Hollywood documentary director Robert Flaherty arrives to film his Man Of Aran, the whole town wants to get into the act, none more than 18 year-old "Cripple Billy," who sees the production as his ticket out of Inishmaan.

In the UK, Martin McDonagh's bawdy dark comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan, transferred (Apr. 30) from the Cottesloe to the larger Lyttleton Theatre for a run through Aug. 31.

Starring in the London Inishmaan were Conroy, Doreen Hepburn, Gary Lydon, Ray McBride, Dearbhla Molloy, Aisling O'Sullivan (Hysteria at the Royal Court), Anita Reeves, John Rogan and Owen Sharpe. Designers for the show were Bob Crowley (set), Mark Henderson (lighting), and Paddy Cunneen (music).

For tickets to The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Public Theatre through May 10, call (212) 239-6200.

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In further NY Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre news:
John Goodman, burly star of TV's "Roseanne," who's had a busy winter starring in a spate of film releases including The Borrowers and The Big Lebowski, will return to the New York stage this summer, playing Mr. Antrobus in the NY Shakespeare Festival's Central Park revival of The Skin of Our Teeth.

The Wilder play is one of two plays being offered as part of NYSF's annual program of free plays at the Delacorte Theatre, several of which have moved to Broadway (Pirates of Penzance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Tempest) or are in the process of doing so (On the Town). The second 1998 Central Park production will be Andrei Serban's mounting of Shakespeare's Cymbeline (no casting announced, as of Apr. 21).

As reported by the NY Times and confirmed by production spokesperson at the Public (Apr. 21), co-starring with Goodman in The Skin of Our Teeth will be Frances Conroy as Mrs. Antrobus and Kristen Johnston as Sabina. Irene Lewis, artistic director of Baltimore MD's Center Stage, will direct the piece, running June 12-July 12.

Wilder's surreal drama follows the Antrobus family, representing the family of Man, as it struggles to survive the Ice Age, marital infidelity and a hurricane that could presage the end of the world. The Pulitzer winning play also is being adapted as a musical by John Kander & Fred Ebb. The non-musical Goodman version will come first.

Goodman has been mixing theatre with film and TV work for several years. Among his stage appearances, he played Huck Finn's father, Pap, in the original Broadway production of the musical Big River, and can be heard singing "Guv'mint" on the original cast album.

Little information is currently available on Cymbeline, which starts previews at the end of July.

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On the smaller stages of the Public -- and already sold-out (May 7-17) -- is Everybody's Ruby: Story Of A Murder In Florida, based on the murder of a popular white doctor in 1952 Florida. A married black woman is accused of the crime, setting off tremendous racial agitation.

"I discovered the story in a footnote in a biography of Zora Neale Hurston," said adaptor Thulani Davis. "It was an amazing untold story about sex, race, money and Southern mores. I started out reading the newspaper clips Hurston wrote, and I couldn't answer to my own satisfaction why she didn't write a book about it. It raises questions about who owns a story."

Davis, a journalist and novelist as well as a playwright, also collaborated with Wolfe and opera composer Anthony Davis (X) on the new opera, Amistad, at Chicago's Lyric Opera. Roberta Levitow directs Ruby.

For more information on shows at NYSF/the Public Theatre call (212) 260 2400.

-- By David Lefkowitz

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