OB's American Place Keeps Sakina's Restaurant Open But Plans New Menu for 98-99 Also

News   OB's American Place Keeps Sakina's Restaurant Open But Plans New Menu for 98-99 Also Sakina's Restaurant, the solo piece by Aasif Mandvi playing at Off-Broadway's American Place Theatre, has been extended indefinitely, but that hasn't stopped the venue -- which has more than one playing space -- from announcing planned shows for its 1998-99 season.
Elizabeth Van Dyke as Zora Neale Hurston
Elizabeth Van Dyke as Zora Neale Hurston Photo by Photo by Martha Swope

Sakina's Restaurant, the solo piece by Aasif Mandvi playing at Off-Broadway's American Place Theatre, has been extended indefinitely, but that hasn't stopped the venue -- which has more than one playing space -- from announcing planned shows for its 1998-99 season.

On the front burner for Oct./Nov. is a revival of the company's 1990 hit, Zora Neale Hurston, directed by Wynn Handman. The production, celebrating the life and work of flavorful African-American writer Hurston (Spunk), won three Audelco Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre.

Laurence Holder's play will retain its original star, Elizabeth Van Dyke.

Due June 1999, is Julia Dahl's Wintertide, a comedy/drama of "young people suffering from stagnation and lack of purpose in their lives," according to the Springer/Chicoine press office.

Between Zora and Wintertide, the American Place is also considering bringing back Norma Jean Darden's hit, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine, featuring Joseph Edward (of last season's Fly). Josh Broder would direct the revival, which would add material and restage certain sequences. Being considered for late spring 1999 are various Cuban-American performance pieces.

As for the success of Sakina, which looks at the zeitgeist and characters of a family-owned Indian restaurant, spokesperson Chicoine attributes audience interest to the uniqueness of the show's milieu. "The show is picking up a following in the East Indian community," said Chicoine, "because [Mandvi's] done it at benefits and gatherings. And he's often given comments like, 'The way you pick up your sash and wipe your forehead remind me of how my mother did that all the time.' The cultural references are so specific, and it's quite evocative."

Among the characters created and played by Mandvi: Sakina, Samir, Ali, Farrida, Azgi and Hakim.

Sakina premiered at Access Theatre's New Works Festival in 1997. Mandvi's acting credits include subUrbia and the surly delivery man in Death Defying Acts. He studied performance with Handman, artistic director of the American Place Theatre, which led to Sakina's slot as the last show of the 1997-98 season. Kim Hughes, who directs the piece, also helped develop it.

Designing Restaurant, which opened June 24, are Tom Greenfield (set), Ryan McMahon (lights) and David E. Wright (sound).

For tickets and information on shows at The American Place Theatre, 111 West 46th St., call (212) 239-6200.

-- By David Lefkowitz
and Robert Simonson

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