Luminaries from the legendary Group Theatre will twinkle and shine again -- appropriately, at the American Jewish Theatre -- March 1, when a new play about the Hollywood blacklist, Names, begins a 4-week run there. Written and directed by Mark Kemble, the drama may be targeted for an open-ended Off-Broadway gig.
The names in Names include Tovah (Yentl, Tovah: Out Of Her Mind) Feldshuh, starring as Stella Adler; Clayton Landy as her brother Luther; and Robert Ari as her husband, Harold Clurman. Actors Studio guru Lee Strasberg will be portrayed by Lee Wilkof (Little Shop Of Horrors). Joel Polis, of The Baby Dance, has been assigned the role of playwright Clifford Odets, and John Mooney will play John Garfield, the actor whose House Of UnAmerican Activities conflict caused him a heart attack at age 39.
Interestingly, author Kemble became intrigued by the subject of the Group Theatre and its fallout over the blacklist when he was cast as Garfield in the film biography of Frances Farmer (Frances), a former Group player and Odets inamorata.
Gordon Greenberg will essay the play's seventh role, a bellop at the Algonquin Hotel where the drama is set. Names deals with the day Kazan called his Group Theatre friends together at the Algonquin and told them he was going to name some of them before HUAC. The consequences of that action continue to plague Kazan. Last month, the 87-year-old director of A Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront was passed over for a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute and the Los Angeles Film Critics. The prize went instead to Roger Corman, who helmed The Viking Women And The Sea Serpent and the original Little Shop Of Horrors.
Names (not to be confused with Jeffrey Sweet's The Value Of Names, also about repercussions of the McCarthy era) is being presented by Daryl Roth, a co-producer of Old Wicked Songs. -- By Harry Haun