Since 1970, NY's Manhattan Theatre Club has been running a "Writers in Performance" series, bringing famous actors in to read excerpts from classic and major new novels. Recent programs have included Bill Murray reading from Mark Twain, and poet Robert Pinsky tackling Dante's "Inferno."
Next up, Mar. 23, will be Mary McCarthy's 1963 satirical novel, The Group. This look at life for an octet of Vassar grads will be read by eight NY actresses TBA.
For tickets ($12) and information on The Group at Manhattan Theatre Club, 131 West 55th St., call (212) 399-3030. The next presentation, March 30, will be by contemporary Indian novelist, Anita Desai, reading her own work.
In other MTC news, though reviews were mixed, Sam Shepard's new play, Eyes For Consuela, has been packing them in at the second stage of NY's Manhattan Theatre Club since beginning previews Jan. 14 and opening Feb. 10. The show has been officially extended past its April 5 close to April 12, and could go longer depending on ticket sales. The drama is based on a story by Octavio Paz ("The Blue Bouquet"). When an American traveler in a Mexican jungle meets a bandit, both must make sacrifices for the women they love. One of the men consumes human eyeballs.
Shepard's plays include the Pulitzer-winning Buried Child (revived on Broadway in 1997), The Curse Of The Starving Class, True West and Fool For Love. He's also had a considerable career as an actor, and now raises horses.
David Strathairn stars in Consuelo, which also features Tanya Gingerich, Jose Perez and Daniel Faraldo. Strathairn last appeared on Broadway in The Three Sisters, opposite Amy Irving and Jeanne Tripplehorn.
Terry Kinney, co-founder of Chicago's Steppenwolf company, directs the Shepard play, which has sets by Santo Loquasto, lighting by Jennifer Tipton, costumes by Walt Spangler and sound by Rob Milburn.
In other Manhattan Theatre Club News:
Also extended, at least through April, is Tony-winner Nathan Lane back on stage in a comedy by Jon Robin Baitz. Sporting the unlikely title Mizlansky/Zilinsky Or `Schmucks', the play began previews Jan. 27 and opened Feb. 17 to mixed-to-positive reviews on the mainstage.
Lane's Broadway credits include the 1992 Guys and Dolls revival and the 1996 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum revival, which won him a Tony Award. His film appearances include the 1996 The Birdcage. Lane has made several notable appearances at MTC, most recently in Love! Valour! Compassion!, which later moved to Broadway.
Lewis J. Stadlen, who played Senex opposite Lane in Forum, stars with Lane in Mizlansky. The two play a pair of crooked movie moguls. Stadlen's other credits include Minnie's Boys and the 1974 Candide.
Also in the cast, Paul Sand plays a down-on-his-luck TV star. Best known for the TV show "Paul Sand Friends & Lovers," Sand is making his first NY stage appearance since the late 1970s. His credits include 1977's Tales Of The Hasidim, for Paul Sills' troupe at the Public Theatre. He also appeared in Neil Simon's The Star-Spangled Girl (1967) and won a Tony for his work in Paul Sills' Story Theatre.
Rounding out the cast are Jennifer Albano, Mark Blum (Lost In Yonkers), Glenn Fitzgerald, Larry Pine (Bus Stop at Circle In The Square) and Lee Wilkof (a Drama Desk nominee for Assassins).
When New York's Manhattan Theatre Club announced is 1997-98 season, hopes were high that Terrence McNally's oft-postponed new drama, Corpus Christi, would finally reach the stage. Though intended to play at the theatre in Feb. 1998, Corpus Christi was officially canceled once again and replaced by this reworking of Baitz's first play. The irony here is that M/Z is directed by Baitz's real-life steady, Joe Mantello, who was scheduled to direct Christi. The Baitz comedy features lighting by Brian MacDevitt, sets by Santo Loquasto and costumes by Ann Roth.
Mantello previously directed McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion! -- a staging so memorable, Mantello filed a lawsuit when a Florida theatre's production of L!V!C! seemed to mirror the MTC/Broadway version too closely. Also an actor, Mantello starred in Angels In America and The Baltimore Waltz. Other works by McNally include The Ritz, Master Class and The Lisbon Traviata.
Ron West, who directed Mizlansky/Zilinsky for CA's KCRW, 89.9 FM, in October 1997, called the piece ideal for radio because, "the jargon used by these Hollywood schemers is so right on, so dead-perfect, the listener is immediately drawn into their world of wheeling and dealing."
Though Captains Courageous was tentatively scheduled for a May 5 start at Manhattan Theatre Club's mainstage, A.R. Gurney's latest play, Labor Day, will go in that slot instead. Gurney, an associate artist at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, will premiere his play there (Feb. 7 March 15, opening Feb. 12), with Jack O'Brien (Pride's Crossing) directing.
Labor Day is a sequel of sorts to Gurney's 1988 The Cocktail Hour and will revisit its main character, John, a playwright whose new play suddenly becomes a hot property.
Gurney's other plays include Sylvia, Later Life, Love Letters and The Middle Ages.
Labor Day, which will be directed by Old Globe Artistic Director O'Brien, is a sequel of sorts to Gurney's The Cocktail Hour, and will revisit its main character, John.
At the Old Globe and in NY, Labor Day will feature Josef Sommer (Whose Life Is It Anyway?, The Trial Of The Catonsville Nine, Spokesong) and Joyce Van Patten (Jake's Women, Rumors, The Supporting Cast). Also in the cast are Veanne Cox, recently Off-Broadway in The Batting Cage, Brooks Ashmanskas (Dream) and James Colby (NYSF's Blade To The Heat).
Designing the show are Kenneth Posner (lighting), Jeff Ladman (sound), Ralph Funicello (set) and Michael Krass (costumes).
Asked about the fate of Captains Courageous, which was anticipated for a May-June world premiere, MTC spokesperson Andy Shearer (of Boneau/Bryan-Brown) said "it's not happening this season" but could give no further information. Continuing in the tradition of bringing literary classics to musical theatre (Jekyll & Hyde, Jane Eyre), this new musical is based on Rudyard Kipling's adventure novel of a young boy on the high seas. Frederick Freyer composed the music, and Patrick Cook wrote the book and lyrics for this story of Harvey Cheyne, spoiled son of a wealthy industrialist, who falls overboard and is rescued by working-class Portuguese sailors. The musical, which also uses the John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly & Dale van Every film as its source, was presented previously at Goodspeed Opera House's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.
MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow had been tapped to direct the musical; Mandy Patinkin told reporters at the Tony Awards (June 1), and other journalists more recently, that he's interested in starring, but production spokesman Andy Shearer told Playbill On-Line Oct. 14, "I can't confirm that he'll be doing it." A call to MTC confirmed that a reading of the musical -- with Patinkin -- took place the week of Oct. 6.
Anne Galjour's solo look at life in her native Louisiana bayou, Alligator Tales, opened the season Oct. 21. After Eyes For Consuela will be the American premiere of Phyllis Nagy's comedy, Disappeared, previewing April 14, opening May 5. When a woman disappears from a noirish, Hell's Kitchen bar, intrigue and hysteria ensue. The play was a runner-up for the 1995 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which honors English-language plays written by women.
Manhattan Theatre Club subscribers have two options: a 7-show "Super Series" or a 5-play option of all four plays on the mainstage plus one of the Stage II works. The theatre currently boasts more than 20,000 subscribers.
Shows at Manhattan Theatre Club are staged on the theatre's large, proscenium mainstage and its 3-sided Stage II (for more intimate/experimental works). Both stages are located in the company's City Center home on West 55th Street.
For information on Manhattan Theatre Club shows call (212) 399-3030 or check out their website at http://www.mtc-nyc.org
-- By David Lefkowitz