Hartford Stage will this month begin the second year of its planned multi- year retrospective of the work of Tennessee Williams. Central to the program, titled "Marathon '99," is the theatre's new revival of Camino Real, starring Betty Buckley and Rip Torn and running Sept. 9-Oct. 10. But Hartford is also planning several readings of Williams' plays, including one on Oct. 4 at 7 PM, of The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, featuring Olmpia Dukakis.
Dukakis, an Oscar winner for "Moonstruck," starred in a production of Milk Train at the 1996 Williamstown Theatre Festival. That production was directed by David Schweitzer, as will the Hartford reading. Dukakis' voluminous stage credits include Night of the Iguana as well as two Obie-winning roles: Brecht's A Man's a Man and Durang's The Marriage of Bette and Boo.
Other plays in the reading series include:
€ Masks Outrageous, an unpublished, full-length late play of Williams', Sept. 20 at 7 PM.
€ I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix, a look at novelist D.H. Lawrence's life; Steps Must Be Gentle, a play about poet Hart Crane and his mother; and The Purification, about a conflict between two ranchers in the American southwest; Sept. 27 at 7 PM "Marathon '99" will also feature a master class, a panel and a photo exhibit.
Tennessee Williams' expressionistic drama Camino Real is experiencing an unlikely rash of popularity. High profile productions of the 1953 play include a staging last summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and a Spring 2000 mounting at Washington DC's Shakespeare Theatre, featuring Michael Hayden as Kilroy. A scene from the play was also presented by Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach in their Tennessee Williams Remembered duet a while back Off-Broadway.
However, the most star-powered mounting of all will likely be the one currently in rehearsal at CT's Hartford Stage. Betty Buckley and Rip Torn are co-starring in a staging of Camino by artistic director Michael Wilson. Buckley, whose recent shows have included The Triumph of Love on Broadway and Gypsy at NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse, essays the role of Marguerite. Torn, best known for playing the acerbic producer on HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show," plays Casanova. James Colby is featured as Kilroy.
Previous Buckley credits are mostly musical -- Cats, Carrie, Sunset Boulevard -- though she did appear in Nicky Silver's comedy drama, The Eros Trilogy, at Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre. Torn's last Broadway assignment was Horton Foote's Pulitzer-winning The Young Man From Atlanta.
Camino Real is set in a fictional port that resembles Casablanca or Tangiers, and the theatre's official press release further explains that the Williams play is "populated with heroes and dreamers of literature and history, including Kilroy, Camille, Casanova, the arch-romantic Don Quixote and the poet Lord Byron."
For information, call Hartford Stage (860) 527-5151.
--By Robert Simonson