Over the past two decades, New York's Ensemble Studio Theatre has fostered the creation of more than 5,000 new plays. Now twelve more are on view at E.S.T.'s annual festival of one-acts, "Marathon `99," which runs in three series, Series A played May 5-16; Series B plays May 19-30, with Series C playing June 2-13.
Among the noted writers contributing new works to this 22nd annual event are Frank D. Gilroy, Romulus Linney, Leslie Ayvazian, Susan Kim, Edward Allan Baker, Bill Bozzone, Christine Farrell, Cassandra Medley, Jaime Richards & Kevin Harris, Stuart Spencer, Cherie Vogelstein and Michael Louis Wells.
Actors appearing in this year's series include Rob Morrow ("Northern Exposure," filmdom's "Quiz Show"), former Broadway Belle Kerry Butler, and Sound of Music castmember Dashiell Eaves.
Series A ran May 5-16, and contained Deaf Day written and directed by Leslie Ayvazian; Goodbye Oscar by Romulus Linney; Maiden Lane by Cassandra Medley; All About Al by Cherie Vogelstein.
Here's the rundown for Series B and C at E.S.T.: Series B (May 19-30)
€ The Golf Ball by Frank D. Gilroy, directed by Chris Smith, is about a rich, retired and restless George Powell (Tom Ligon), who makes a bet on a golf game which escalates into an obsession. The cast also includes Mimi Bensinger and Baxter Harris. Other plays by Gilroy include: The Subject Was Roses, The Only Game in Town, and That Summer - That Fall.
€ Dreamtime for Alice by Susan Kim, directed by Richard Lichte, has a forty-something American (Cecilia DeWolf) on vacation in Australia and finding herself left behind by her tour group in the great big outback. With little on-hand but time, she reflects on everything from the local lizards to the husband she left behind. Kim's adaptation of Amy Tan's novel The Joy Luck Club recently enjoyed an Off-Broadway run at Pan Asian Rep.
€ In the Western Garden by Stuart Spencer, directed by Judy Minor, gives us famous, cantankerous painter Gene Kapp (Robert Hogan), who rose to fame in the Sixties. Like de Kooning and Pollock he lived in the Hamptons, and there he has remained in virtual seclusion with his wife Sally (Peggity Price). That is, until he's visited by his broke art dealer (David Margulies) and a hot young conceptual artist (Rob Morrow) with an agenda. Spencer is the author of several plays including Resident Alien, Water and Wine, Blue Stars and Go to Ground.
€ The 'I' Word: Interns by Michael Louis Wells, directed by Jaime Richards. It's September 16, 1998: the evening Vaclav Havel speaks at the White House and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal ensues. Three young interns wrestle with their feelings about the American political system. The cast includes: Kerry Butler (Beauty and the Beast), Ian Kessler, Katherine Leask, and Sarah Rose. Other Wells plays include: Real Real Gone, District of Columbia, Fourth Time Around, and Seven Pages Unsigned.
Series C (June 2-June 13)
€ Up, Down, Strange Charmed Beauty and Truth by Edward Allan Baker, directed by Ron Stetson. Two sisters (Amy Staats and Amy Love) try to escape their abusive mother with the help of their uncle (Bruce MacVittie). Others plays by Baker include: Dolores, Lady of Fadima, and Rosemary with Ginger.
€ War by Bill Bozzone, directed by Christine Farrell. War takes place in 1966, as the Vietnam War rages on, a young widowed mother (Sylvia Kelegian) and her teenage son (Gary Wolf) face their own loss of innocence in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The play also features Corey Behnke. Bozzone is also the author of Sonny DeRee's Life Flashes Before His Eyes.
€ The Once Attractive Woman by Christine Farrell, directed by Eliza Beckwith. Woman tells the story of Anne (Barrie Youngfellow), a middle-aged married professor, who finds herself considering having an affair with two different men (Chris Lutkin and Ted Neustadt). Farrell was the co-author of Mama Drama.
€ Roman Fever, adapted from Edith Wharton by Jaime Richards & Kevin Harris, directed by Eileen Myers. Two women, members of Old New York's high society, run into each other in Rome, where they have arrived to marry off their daughters, and confront their mutual past. The cast includes: Meg Gibson, Kristin Griffith, Jennifer Carlson, Maggie Lacey and Phil Provost.
For tickets ($15 per series, $35 for all three evenings) and information on Marathon `99 at Ensemble Studio Theatre call (212) 247-4982. -- By Sean McGrath