Even a jaded theatregoer is likely to perk up at the list of notables announced for the 1998 Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts' Berkshires area, June 17-Aug. 30. Eleven plays will be done in 11 weeks, plus a late-night cabaret.
Starting things off at the Mainstage, June 24-July 5, will be Tennessee Williams' early masterpiece, The Glass Menagerie, directed by Neel [sic] Keller, current artistic associate at La Jolla Playhouse. Dana Ivey (Sex and Longing, Driving Miss Daisy) stars as faded belle Amanda Wingfield. Eric Stoltz (Our Town, Tony Walton's Off-Broadway mounting of The Importance of Being Earnest) co-stars as Amanda's unhappy son, Tom.
Audiences will then say "Hello, Dolly" to actress/comedienne Andrea Martin, who stars as Dolly Levi in Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, July 8-19. Williamstown resident director Nicholas Martin will stage this comedy about a widow who tries to fix up a wealthy bachelor -- with herself.
The very first season at Williamstown (1955), founding artistic director Nikos Psacharopoulos staged N. Richard Nash's comedy/drama, The Rainmaker. Now Scott Ellis, who recently reaped plaudits for Broadway's 1776 revival, will stage The Rainmaker at WTF, July 22-Aug. 2. Later made into the Jones/Schmidt musical 110 in the Shade, Rainmaker tells of a town hit by drought -- and bowled over by a handsome conman.
Roger Rees, last on Broadway in The Rehearsal, directs Richard Brinsley Sheridan's farce, The Rivals, Aug. 5-16. No word on who'll play the verbally cacaphonous -- er, calamitous, Mrs. Malaprop. And what is Hecuba to Williamstown and Williamstown to Hecuba? We'll find out Aug. 19-30 when Timberlake Wertenbaker's adaptation of Euripides' tragedy travels to WTF from San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. Carey Perloff directs, with Olympia Dukakis starring.
Five plays will also happen on the smaller, 96-seat Nikos Stage (recently renamed for aforementioned founding director Psacharopoulos):
The Big Knife -- Clifford Odets' look at a movie star who compromised his talent for an empty life in Hollywood. Joanne Woodward, who has recently staged numerous Odets plays, directs, June 17-28.
The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told -- The latest from Paul Rudnick, author of the comedies Jeffrey and I Hate Hamlet. Christopher Ashley directs this comedy, July 1-12, that tackles such issues as the existence of God and the need for belief.
Far East -- Former Seattle Rep artistic director Dan Sullivan helms the latest play by A.R. Gurney (The Cocktail Hour, Sylvia, Love Letters), July 15-26. Set in the 1950s, Far East tells of a young naval officer looking for fun in Japan before Voice of America calls him home.
Evolution -- From the author of Women and Wallace, Jonathan Marc Sherman, comes this comedy about a Harvard student who knows nothing about popular culture yet becomes a hot property in Hollywood. Nicholas Martin directs, July 29-Aug. 9.
Corners -- A man's free sex life gets him into trouble in this drama by David Rabe, author of Hurlyburly and A Question of Mercy. Scott Ellis, who helms the aforementioned Rainmaker, directs, Aug. 12-23.
Also at the Williamstown Fest, family audiences can enjoy Carlo Gozzi's The Blue Demon (July 23-Aug. 1), directed by Dark Tresjnak. This fairy tale, based on The Arabian Nights, features dance, masks and puppetry.
A special late-nite Cabaret (July 2-Aug. 14) and the Greylock Theatre Project for disadvantaged youth also comprise the Festival, as do a site specific piece by Act I Company and New Play Readings in consideration for next year's Fest. Michael Ritchie serves as producer of the Festival.
Williamstown Festival tickets go onsale June 10 at the box office or by calling (413) 597-3400. WTF's 24-hour information line is (413) 597-3399.
-- By David Lefkowitz