Nicholas Martin, who has spent this summer directing You Never Can Tell at the Roundabout and two plays at Williamstown Theatre Festival (The Matchmaker and Evolution), will be calling the shots for Betty's Summer Vacation Feb. 5-March 14, 1999 at Playwrights Horizons.
Durang's comedy, the first since his short-lived Broadway Sex and Longing, spins dizzily around a beachside summer share in which a level-headed heroine is drawn into the low-brow world of her housemates; these include, according to production notes, "an abuse victim, a serial killer, a sex-obsessed beach boy and an exhibitionist," all under one roof.
Other works by the playwright, whose comedies often push the dark limits of farce, include Beyond Therapy, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, The Actor's Nightmare, Nina in the Morning, Wanda's Visit, A Stye of the Eye, Mrs. Sorken and History of the American Film.
Vacation will be followed, Apr. 23-May 30, 1999 by the fourth and final production of Playwrights Horizons' 1998-1999 season -- a project that will be announced at a later date. (An original musical has been rumored, since Playwrights Horizons has had much luck in this area with Violet and Floyd Collins).
As for the first part of the season, Obie winner Dana Ivey and Tony winner Roger Rees get things up and running Sept. 11 with the world premiere of The Uneasy Chair, a comical donnybrook by Evan Smith pitting a miserly, spinster boarding-house owner against her cranky perennial-bachelor tenant. Richard Cottrell will helm the piece, which is set in Victorian London scheduled to run through Oct. 18. Next up, Nov. 20-Dec. 27, is a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, Freedomland, Amy Freed1s dark comedy about a trio of eccentric siblings returning to the nest. Howard Shalwitz, who directed the play to considerable acclaim when it world-premiered last year at South Coast Rep, will repeat that task here.
The play takes its title from the name of a Wild West theme park in the Bronx, where Freed grew up. (The park was ultimately torn down in the 1960s to make way for Co-op City, a high-rise housing development.)
"Freedomland [the park] represents a primordial, unquestioning order for me -- a place of safety," said Freed in a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times. The play, however, is not about the warm, nostalgic world of amusement parks -- at its center is a distraught family with deep seated problems: The father has been abandoned by his first wife; his second wife is a free-love refugee; his two grown daughters -- an avant garde artist and a lost soul who loves to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings -- hate each other; and his paranoid son is on the verge of going postal.
Freed's previous play, the black comedy The Psychic Life of Savages -- a fictionalized look at the poets Sylvia Plath, Ted Morgan, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell -- won the New York Arts Club's prestigious $10,000 Joseph Kesselring Award and was a hit two seasons ago at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington (in a production that won a 1995 Charles McArthur Award for outstanding new play).
Come autumn, Tim Sanford will begin his fourth season as artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St. For ticket and subscription information call (212) 279-4200.
-- By Harry Haun and David Lefkowitz