Neil Simon's Latest Play, Rose and Walsh, Bows Jan. 28 at L.A.'s Geffen

News   Neil Simon's Latest Play, Rose and Walsh, Bows Jan. 28 at L.A.'s Geffen Neil Simon's 33rd play, Rose and Walsh, said to be inspired by the relationship between writers Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett, dawns Jan. 28 at Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, CA, with Jane Alexander and Len Cariou as the lovers.

David Esbjornson (The Goat, Tuesdays With Morrie) directs the world premiere, which continues to March 9 at the respected not-for-profit. Also featured are David Aaron Baker as Clancy, a young writer, and Marin Hinkle as Arlene, Rose's assistant.

The play's opening night is set for Feb. 5.

Simon, 75, bills the play this way: "Rose and Walsh follows two great literary figures and the depth and consequence of their enduring love. At a beautiful beach house on the tip of Long Island, Rose, a celebrated but near-penniless author, receives nightly visits from Walsh, the love of her life and a famous writer himself. Now Walsh must go away forever, but not before securing Rose's financial future with an extraordinary proposal that promises to change everything."

Simon has been on site at Geffen Playhouse working with the creative team. The play is fiction, and not a biography of Hammett and Hellman, a spokesperson said.

Cariou was a guest in Simon's Broadway comedy, The Dinner Party, and most recently starred in Broadway's Proof. He took home the Tony Award playing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Jane Alexander starred in The Great White Hope on Broadway (winning the Tony and getting and Oscar nom for the film version) and also appeared in Broadway's The Visit, Honour, The Sisters Rosensweig (among others) and was chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, 1993-97. She won the Emmy Award for "Playing for Time." Simon, an American playwriting institution who fearlessly moved from celebrated sitcom plays (The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys, Come Blow Your Horn) into darker, though comic, explorations of dysfunctional-family dynamics (Lost in Yonkers, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Broadway Bound) — picking up three Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize along the way — has a Broadway theatre named after him. His most recent Broadway venture was 45 Seconds From Broadway in 2001; before that he served The Dinner Party.

Baker appeared on Broadway in The Rainmaker, Once Upon a Mattress and The Moliére Comedies. His Off-Broadway credits include Glory of Living, Hobson's Choice, Ancestral Voices, Bosoms and Neglect, Blue Window, Oblivion Postponed and Durang Durang.

Hinkle most recently appeared in The Fourth Sister, directed by Lisa Peterson, at the Vineyard Theatre. She appeared on Broadway in Electra, Alowns and The Tempest. Her Off-Broadway credits include A Dybbuk, Blue Window, Henry VIII, The Changeling, Sabina and Slavs!

The late Lillian Hellman, as a character, is appearing on the Broadway stage in the bitchy Imaginary Friends, Nora Ephron's play with music about the rivalry between Hellman and Mary McCarthy, exploring the writers' approaches to fact and fiction. Simon told Variety in 2002 that his Rose and Walsh takes place in the early 1980s.

Designers are John Arnone (scenic), Elizabeth Hope Clancy (costume), Stephen Strawbridge (lighting), Jon Gottlieb (sound).

Geffen Playhouse is at 10886 Le Conte Avenue in Westwood. Rose and Walsh tickets range $28 $46. For information, call (310) 208-5454 or visit the Geffen website at www.geffenplayhouse.com.

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Geffen Playhouse is headed by producing director Gilbert Cates, artistic director Randall Arney and managing director Stephen Eich.