Two of the five plays under consideration for the Manhattan Theatre Club's 1998-99 season won't come as news to most MTC watchers. On the docket are Terrence McNally's long-long-awaited Corpus Christi, postponed for two consecutive seasons, and the new musical Captains Courageous, which had been on tap for `97-`98 until a decision was made to hold off and replace it with A.R. Gurney's (upcoming) Labor Day.
According to MTC's subscription brochure, Athol Fugard's latest, The Captain's Tiger, is also a likely candidate. More unexpected at MTC are the latest play by Chay Yew (who wrote A Language of Their Own) and a revival of Arthur Kopit's Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You In The Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad. Three further plays will be announced by MTC later on.
* When New York's Manhattan Theatre Club announced is 1997-98 season, hopes were high that McNally's new drama, Corpus Christi, would finally reach the stage. Though intended to play at the theatre in Feb. 1998, Corpus Christi was officially canceled once again and replaced by a reworking of Jon Robin Baitz's first play, Mizlanski/Zilinksi or "schmucks". The irony here is that Baitz's real-life companion, Joe Mantello, was scheduled to direct Christi. Instead he's staged the current hit run of M/Z.
Other McNally plays include Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class and The Ritz.
According to an MTC spokesperson at Boneau/Bryan-Brown (reached Apr. 9), Corpus Christi is slated for the fall. *
Captains Courageous, which has music by Frederick Freyer and book & lyrics by Patrick Cook, was anticipated for a May-June world premiere. Continuing in the tradition of bringing literary classics to musical theatre (Jekyll & Hyde, Jane Eyre), this new musical is based on Rudyard Kipling's adventure novel of a young boy on the high seas.
It's the story of Harvey Cheyne, spoiled son of a wealthy industrialist, who falls overboard and is rescued by working-class Portuguese sailors. The musical, which also uses the John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly & Dale van Every film as its source, was presented previously at Goodspeed Opera House's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.
MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow had been tapped to direct the musical; Mandy Patinkin told reporters at the 1997 Tony Awards (June 1, 1997), and other journalists more recently, that he's interested in starring, but production spokesman Andy Shearer told Playbill On-Line Oct. 14, "I can't confirm that he'll be doing it." A reading of the musical -- with Patinkin -- took place the week of Oct. 6. However, plans for Captains Courageous were then only tentative. A Boneau/Bryan-Brown spokesperson told Playbill On-Line (Apr. 9) the musical has not yet been cast.
* The Captain's Tiger, which will have played at NJ's McCarter (May) and CA's La Jolla Playhouse (July) by the time it reaches MTC, tells the autobiographical story of a young writer haunted by a cherished photograph of his mother as a young woman. Fugard, author of Boesman and Lena, Master Harold and the Boys, The Blood Knot and Valley Song, writes and directs.
Fugard directs and stars in the play (as he did in Valley Song), which premiered in Pretoria, South Africa in late August 1997. Following the opening night, Fugard jotted a note to McCarter's artistic director Emily Mann, who was also in attendance: "...a thrilling launch last night. Individual response after the show leaves me in no doubt we have on our hands a play that works."
Arthur Kopit's 1962 farce, Oh Dad...So Sad, tells of a scheming lady (Madame Rosepettle) and her "socially challenged son." The MTC brochure notes that the play features "giant Venus flytraps, talking fish and a voracious babysitter named Rosalie."
According to the BackStage Theatre Guide, ODPDMHYITCAIFSS was written when Kopit was still an undergraduate at Harvard University. Other Kopit works include The Questioning of Nick (1957), Indians (1968), Wings (1978) and The Day The Whores Came Out To Play Tennis (1965).
Red, not to be confused with Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1994 film of the same name, tells of "a best-selling American writer returning to her native Communist China to research her new book." The trip takes her to the Beijing Opera during the so-called "Cultural Revolution."
Yew's first play, As If He Hears, was commissioned by Theatreworks in Singapore, where it was initially banned by their government. His A Language of Their Own was given a limited run at L.A.'s Celebration Theatre in 1994 and opened at New York's Public Theatre in 1995. Yew's gay drama Porcelain recently played in Boston.
Yew is presently a resident artist and director of The Mark Taper's Asian Theatre Workshop and Resident Director of the East West Players, where his trilogy, Whitelands (comprised of Porcelain, A Language of Their Own and Half Lives), was presented in repertory in 1996.
As for the rest of this season at MTC, Mizlansky/Zilinsky or "schmucks" continues on the mainstage through Apr. 26. Sam Shepard's Eyes For Consuela, which was to have extended to Apr. 12, closed on its original end date, Apr. 5.
Upcoming are Labor Day and Power Plays. The latter is a slate of one-acts by Elaine May and Alan Arkin, directed by Arkin. Though produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, the show runs at the Promenade Theatre, starting previews Apr. 14.
Gurney, an associate artist at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, premiered Labor Day there in February-March. A sequel of sorts to Gurney's 1988 The Cocktail Hour, Labor Day revisits its main character, John. Gurney's other plays include Sylvia, Love Letters and The Middle Ages.
As it was in San Diego, Labor Day is directed by Old Globe artistic director Jack O'Brien. At the Old Globe and in NY, Labor Day features Josef Sommer (Whose Life Is It Anyway?, The Trial Of The Catonsville Nine, Spokesong) and Joyce Van Patten (Jake's Women, Rumors, The Supporting Cast). Also in the cast are Veanne Cox, recently Off-Broadway in The Batting Cage, Brooks Ashmanskas (Dream) and James Colby (NYSF's Blade To The Heat).
Designing the show are Kenneth Posner (lighting), Jeff Ladman (sound), Ralph Funicello (set) and Michael Krass (costumes).
On the second stage, the previously scheduled Disappeared has, at least temporarily, disappeared. Phyllis Nagy's comedy about a woman vanishing from a Hell's Kitchen bar, was a runner-up for the 1995 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which honors English-language plays written by women.
Replacing Disappeared will be a trio of cabaret performances, each running three weeks. Under the umbrella title "Manhattan Music," the performers will be Mary Cleere Haran (May 19-June 7), James Naughton (June 9-28) and the vocal group Hot Mouth (June 30-July 19). Naughton is best known for his recent work in the Chicago revival on Broadway; the hip Hot Mouth came to attention for its well received performance last year at the Foundry.
Manhattan Theatre Club subscribers have two options: an 8-show "Super Series" or a 5-play option of all four plays on the mainstage plus one of the Stage II works. The theatre currently boasts more than 20,000 subscribers.
For subscriptions ($215-$314) and information on Manhattan Theatre Club's upcoming season call (212) 399-3030 or check out their website at http://www.mtc-nyc.org
-- By David Lefkowitz