Director Diane Paulus helmed two extended runs at the Vineyard Theatre with Eli's Comin' and Brutal Imagination. Now it's her self-penned and directed Swimming With Watermelons that the company hopes will be a similar hit. The play with music, written with husband Randy Weiner, makes its Off-Broadway debut at the Vineyard March 22 in a co-production with Music-Theatre Group (You Don't Miss the Water, America Dreaming). Opening night is April 14.
Swimming With Watermelons features Emily Hellstrom, Rachel Benbow Murdy, Jordin Ruderman and Anna Wilson. The four actresses play a multitude of roles, including American, German and Japanese women as well as American soldiers.
Swimming With Watermelons takes place during the American occupation of Japan, when wartime threw GIs and girls (and Paulus' own parents) together. Interpolating some twenty recorded songs from the 1940's ("Night and Day," "Stormy Weather" and "I Could Write a Book"), Watermelons traces several relationships including that of Tomoko, a bright young Japanese girl with her soldier-lover, an army camp librarian and her Jewish journalist and a West Virginia woman who begins to lose her husband Grant to a seductive Pan Pan girl named Yuki. Swimming With Watermelons played the Berkshire Theatre Festival July 18-Aug. 4.
Paulus and Weiner co-created the long-running hit The Donkey Show with their company, Project 400. She also directed Eady and Murray's Running Man and Fangs, as well as the Vineyard's big hit of 2001, Eli's Comin'.
Set design is by Myung Hee Cho with costumes by Ilona Somogyi, lighting by Michael Chybowski and sound by Brett Jarvis. Tickets are $15-$45. The Vineyard is located at 108 E. 15th Street. For ticket information, call (212) 353-0303.
The Vineyard is also developing new projects by playwright Christopher Shinn (Four) and composer Kirsten Childs (The Bubby Black Girl...).
— By Christine Ehren