Weeks ago, when the musical imPERFECT CHEMISTRY [sic] was still trying to take root at the Minetta Lane Theatre, it was revealed that Anne Meara’s new play, Down the Garden Paths, already had a back-up agreement for the venue. Though CHEMISTRY went kaboom Oct. 1, only now have dates been confirmed for the arrival of Meara’s comedy-drama, which will start previews Nov. 7 and open Nov. 19.
After a successful winter mounting at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse, Garden Paths had an equally potent -- and mostly sold out -- run at Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre. New York would have seemed like the next obvious step, but there was a season-long logjam for theaters on and Off-Broadway.
The story of a family gathering to celebrate the latest novel by an award-winning author, Down the Garden Paths is expected to keep nearly all of its regional cast. The previous productions featured an on-film cameo by Meara's real-life husband, Jerry Stiller, playing Herschel Strange, a quantum physicist. Stiller and Meara's real-life daughter, Amy Stiller (Sharon Garden/Jodie Garden), is also in the show. And adding further to the show's familial undercurrent are true-life couple Eli Wallach (Sid Garden) and Anne Jackson (Stella Dempsey Garden), joined by their daughter, Roberta Wallach (Claire Shayne/Claire Garden). Supporting cast members included Michael Countryman (Max Garden), Angela Pietropinto (Professor Cramer), John Procaccino (Arthur Garden) and Ann McDonough (Liz Garden). One new cast member is John Shea (last Off Broadway in The Director) taking over as Arthur.
Jackson and Wallach have appeared together in such shows as Twice Around the Park and the recent Tennessee Williams Remembered. The younger Wallach received a Drama Desk nomination for playing the hellishly unpleasant daughter in Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment.
Designing The Garden Paths at George Street were Michael Elliott (lighting, replacing Howell Binkley, who was busy at the time on Minnelli on Minnelli), James Youmans (set), Chris Bailey (sound) and David Murin (costumes). All but Elliott are expected to repeat their duties, with Michael Lincoln taking over on lighting. As reported by Theatrical Index and confirmed by the Jeffrey Richards Associates press office, the producing team is Elliott Martin, Max Cooper and Ron Shapiro, with Roy Gabay serving as general manager.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Christine Ehren