A mix of world-premieres and proven chestnuts mark the new season at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ. New works include Velina Hasu Houston's Waiting for Tadashi and Ain Gordon's Public Ghosts — Private Stories, while modern classics from Lanford Wilson and Wendy Wasserstein also fill the roster.
Leading off the season, Oct. 9-Nov 11 (opening Oct. 13) is Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Lanie Robertson's popular look at tragic blues singer Billie Holiday. Suzzanne Douglas, the first black woman to star in the Pulitzer-winning Wit, returns to George Street to play Lady Day, whose addiction to booze and drugs wrecked a career as legendary as any jazz singer in the 20th century. Songs in the Outer Critics Circle Award winning Lady Day include "T'Ain't Nobody's Biz-ness," "Crazy He Calls Me" and "God Bless the Child." David Alan Bunn is the show's pianist, who occasionally interacts with Holiday.
Other Robertson works include the recently-revived Joe Orton Nasty Little Secrets and the Kleban-winning libretto for Stringbean.
In conjunction with the themes of the play and October being Arts & Humanities Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, for the Oct. 28 performance, a portion of the box office proceeds of Lady Day will go to the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women.
* After Lady Day, Mark Nelson, whose Off-Broadway roles have included Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile and a wised-up advice-giver in As Bees in Honey Drown, stars in a revival of Lanford Wilson's Pulitzer-winning Talley's Folly. The 1980 comedy drama, about a lonely Jewish immigrant wooing a shy and emotionally wounded WASP, will be directed by Ted Sod and run Nov. 27-Dec. 23, officially opening Nov. 30. Author Wilson continued following the Talley family in Fifth of July and A Tale Told (later renamed Talley and Son). Other plays include Lemon Sky and Burn This. Alison Gibson plays Sally Talley.
Velina Hasu Houston's Waiting for Tadashi, directed by artistic director David Saint (who workshopped the piece last year), begins the new year. The tale of a boy born to a Japanese mother and U.S. serviceman father during World War II runs Jan. 8-Feb. 3, 2002, opening Jan. 9.
Though her Old Money had little currency at Lincoln Center this year, Wendy Wasserstein still boasts a formidable canon, including 1992's Tony-nominated The Sisters Rosensweig, to be staged by David Saint Feb. 12-March 10, opening Feb. 15, 2002. The play's focal point is Sarah, a middle-aged banking exec who's moved to London and feels distanced from her Brooklyn-Jewish roots. Still, a dalliance with a haimische furrier pulls her back into her background.
Saint has yet to choose the season's fifth show (for the March 19-April 14, 2002 slot), to be staged by Ethan McSweeny, but the sixth and final entry will be a community-based project created by Ain Gordon, Public Ghosts — Private Stories. According to a George Street release, the show "recounts 180 years of African-American, Hispanic, Hungarian and Irish life in the [New Brunswick] community." Michael Rohd and Eric Ruffin co-direct, April 23-May 19, opening April 26, 2002.
— By David Lefkowitz