Tony Taccone's first season as artistic director of Berkeley Rep in California has led the theatre to range from Eastern Europe to rich, 19th Century Greenwich Village to multi-cultural, urban, modern Manhattan.
Playing to Nov. 16 is Evolution Of A Homeboy / Locked Down, a new solo show by Danny "Some People" Hoch, an expert at ethnic and urban dialects. Beginning previews Nov. 7 is The Heiress, the show that earned Cherry Jones a 1995 Best Actress Tony Award.
David Wheeler directs this adaptation of Henry James' Washington Square by Ruth & Augustus Goetz. The Heiress shows a shy New York daughter falling prey to a handsome suitor's greed. Opening Nov. 12, The Heiress runs to Jan. 2, 1998.
Starring as Catherine Sloper (the Jones role) is Anne Toriglieri, who starred on Broadway in Blood Brothers and Miss Saigon. Ken Ruta plays her father, Robert Parsons plays Morris the cad. Also in the cast are Katherine Conklin, Penelope Kreitzer, Joy Carlin, Kristin Ketterer, Bryan Close and Yumi Ann Sumida.
Designing The Heiress are Kate Edmunds (sets), Laura Crow (costumes) York Kennedy (lighting) and Matthew Spiro (sound). *
Artistic director Taccone served as artistic director of San Francisco's The Eureka Theatre for seven years before joining Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 1988. Tony Kushner's Angels In America was commissioned at Eureka during those years, and Taccone co-directed the epic with Oskar Eustis when it world premiered at L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum. Taccone's stagings at Berkeley Rep include Serious Money, Slavs! and The Birthday Party.
Also on tap for the Berkeley Repertory season is the West Coast premiere of Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, replacing Philip Kan Gotanda's premiere of Yohen, and moving Athol Fugard's Valley Song to an off-site mounting at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco. Drive will be co-produced with SF's Magic Theatre as the first production of 1998. Gotanda's play, which has received two workshops at the Rep, is being considered for a future production.
In announcing the program change, Taccone said, "Our decision to alter the original season line up began when we met with Philip last week and he mentioned that it would be his preference to have more time to work on Yohen. Our interest in and the availability of Paula's play coupled with the Magic's strong history with her history with her work made the move a natural."
Gotanda said, "Though I've had two productive workshops and gone through several workable drafts of Yohen, I still feel I haven't found the heart of the piece. And instead of being bound by a production date while feeling this way, I'd rather be patient and take the time to further develop it." Gotanda is in residency at Berkeley Rep and premiered two previous plays there.
As for How I Learned To Drive, this winner of the 1997 NY Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards, tells of a young woman's troubled relationship with her uncle. The show is currently in an open commercial run at Off-Broadway's Century Theatre, with Molly Ringwald in the lead female role. David Morse and Mary Louise Parker were the original stars of this two-hander.