From Naked Boys Singing to Puppetry of the Penis to The Vagina Monologues to Gyro in The Flaming Idiots preparing bologna sandwiches with his feet, Off-Broadway has been making the most of isolated body parts. Now Classic Stage Company will focus on someone who made the most of stitching various body parts together — and paid a heavy price for doing so. Opening the CSC season, Jan. 27, is Neal Bell's Monster, which adapts Mary Shelley's chiller novel, "Frankenstein."
Rent director Michael Greif stages this world-premiere adaptation about a scientist who creates a human monstrosity and then can't control its actions. This version begins at sea, with Victor Frankenstein discovered on an ice floe. According to spokespersons at The Publicity Office, the production promises to mine "the roiling psycho-sexual dynamics beneath the Gothic surface of Shelley's novel."
Starring in the show are Jake Weber, Michael Cullen, Christopher Donahue, Annie Parisse, Michael Pitt, Jonno Roberts and Christen Clifford. Designing the show are Robert Brill (set), Jess Goldstein (costumes), Kenneth Posner (lighting) and Jane Shaw (sound).
Monster begins previews Jan. 15, opens Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 17, 2002.
* After a season of almost unrelenting darkness, from the bleakness of Beckett's Texts for Nothing to the Holocaust-era Race and I Will Bear Witness to the current operatic adaptation of Kafka's nightmarish In the Penal Colony, Off-Broadway's Classic Stage Company (CSC) now lightens up a bit. The biggest name in the mix is writer-actor-comedian Steve Martin, who is adapting Carl Sternheim's edgy, door-slamming farce The Underpants. Martin, who made it big as a comedian with the album "Let's Get Small" and has been a movie star since "The Jerk" (followed by such pics as "The Man with Two Brains," "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "Father of the Bride" and "Pennies From Heaven") made theatrical waves in the 1990s with his comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile, some one acts. The past couple of years have seen him return to Hollywood and concentrate on films, his art collection and numerous comic essays for the New Yorker, as well as a novella, "Shopgirl."
Playwright Sternheim was born in 1878 in Leipzig. After studying philosophy he co-founded "Hyperion" literary magazine and went on to write such plays as The Cassette and The Snob. After encountering moral outrage over some of his writing, Sternheim moved to Brussels and lived there until his death in 1942.
Though Martin's adaptation of Sternheim's best-known comedy is titled "The Underpants," more delicate translations have called it "Knickers" and "The Trousers." The play tells of a man who's mortally embarrassed when his wife's undies fall down during the procession of the King. Two gentlemen notice her predicament — and become immediately smitten with her. CSC artistic director Barry Edelstein will direct The Underpants, running March 20-April 28 at CSC (officially opening April 4). As of Jan. 10, casting has yet to be announced.
In a quieter vein, director Anne Bogart and Ellen Lauren are busy adapting the writings of Virginia Woolf into Room, with Bogart's SITI Company working on the piece at CSC. Lauren would star in the solo piece, no doubt focusing on "A Room of One's Own," which has already served as a solo vehicle for Eileen Atkins. Bogart's other projects have included bobrauschenbergamerica by Charles L. Mee, staged at this-past season's Humana Festival in Louisville, KY. Room arrives May 15 15 June 9, officially opening May 23.
For tickets and information on shows at CSC, 136 East 13th Street, call (212) 677-4210 or check out their website, www.classicstage.org.
— By David Lefkowitz