Where did your parents meet? Chance are, you were curious and asked them about it at one time or another. Theatre and film aficionados may be interested to learn that film star Gwyneth Paltrow's parents, actress Blythe Danner and producer Bruce Paltrow, met during the premiere production of Neil R. Selden's provocative 1969 play, Someone's Comin' Hungry, which is being revived by the newly formed Third Artists Group in February.
The Selden play, directed by Sandy Harper, has been radically revised by the playwright for this production and begins previews Feb. 17. The show opens officially Feb. 20 and the limited three-week engagement closes March 5.
Someone's Comin' Hungry premiered at the Pocket Theater in 1969. Production sources say the show launched the careers of Cleavon Little and actress Blythe Danner, who met her future husband, producer Bruce Paltrow, on the show.
In an interview with Playbill On-Line, playwright Selden paraphrased Blythe Danner, who recently wrote to a friend about the show saying, "For Bruce and me, it was the start of everything."
Asked if the Paltrows would be invited to the revival, a separate production source said, "I'm sure they will be, one assumes they certainly have warm feelings about the show." When the show first ran in the late '60s, the Village Voice predicted that it would "have a long run," but it did not. Someone's Comin' Hungry is the story of a decorated Vietnam War veteran and his multi-racial family. The lead character, who is black, and his pregnant wife -- who happens to be both Jewish and white -- interact with his father, who is himself a WWII veteran. The story takes place during the time of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The cast for Someone's Comin' Hungry includes Kathryn Smith McGlynn, Anslem Richardson, Elena Katzap and Randy Frazier.
The production team comprises set and lighting designer Kellis Carroll and costume designer Allen Hale.
"The play has been radically reconstructed," playwright Selden told Playbill On-Line from his home in New Jersey. "In those days we didn't do workshops, we went right into rehearsal." Selden said that the original press criticism from 1969 was helpful in reworking the play.
The original work, which Selden collaborated on with the late McCrey Imbrie, was optioned at one point by a Canadian investor to be adapted for film. However, the controversial nature of the work made it difficult to publish or find distribution for the piece in the late '60s.
"Our agent, [the late] Flora Roberts was at the top," Selden explained, "and even she couldn't get it published."
Originally centered on the multi-racial marriage of the returning Viet Nam veteran, the story now focuses on the returning veteran and his father, a WWII veteran. At the urging of the lead's wife, both characters struggle to find common ground as they share the nightmarish experience of war and what it was like, in both cases, to return to a bigoted America. Recently added to the play is the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which Selden said is a major element in the story.
The King assassination is not the only historical influence on the revised production. In terms of casting, Selden said that actor Randy Frazier has been able to call up his own "nightmarish experiences from Viet Nam" as he portrays the returning Viet Nam veteran.
Tickets are $12. Someone's Comin' Hungry will play at New 42nd Street Theater, 348 West 42nd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues). Reservations can be made by calling Smarttix at (212) 532-8887.
-- By Murdoch McBride