Parker, Benchley, Kaufman and Woollcott Gather in Peccadillo's Talk of the Town, Nov. 4

News   Parker, Benchley, Kaufman and Woollcott Gather in Peccadillo's Talk of the Town, Nov. 4
 
In a bit of a switch for the Peccadillo Theater Company, which specializes in reclaiming lost plays by early American dramatists, the company's next project will be a new play about a few of the writers who penned some of those plays—as well as others who merely reviewed said entertainments.

In association with William Repicci, Peccadillo will present the world premiere of the original musical The Talk of the Town, which tells the tale of the literary friendships and rivalries among the members of the Algonquin Round Table. Characters include Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman and Alexander Woollcott, a crowd known for its ready and often devastating wit. The title of the play comes from the name of a column in The New Yorker, which was created by another Algonquin wiseacre, publisher Harold Ross. Performances begin Nov. 4.

The Algonquin Round Table arose late in the second decade of the 20th century when a press agent turned powerful drama critic Woollcott onto the charms of the Algonquin Hotel's Rose Room. Woollcott began inviting his friends to the dining hall. They included Vanity Fair writers Parker and Benchley, New York Times drama editor and playwright Kaufman, novelist Edna Ferber, New York World columnist and labor leader Heywood Broun, playwright Robert Sherwood and popular columnist Franklin P. Adams. Occasional joiners included actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, a young Tallulah Bankhead, short story writer Ring Lardner, comedian Harpo Marx and Broun's wife Ruth Hale.

Since most of the members worked for newspapers, the quips and goings-on of the circle quickly became copy, particularly in Adams' widely-read "The Conning Tower." The lunch gatherings were famous by the early '20s. The clique was variously known as "The Vicious Circle" and "The Poison Squad." Algonquin manager Frank Case, an admirer of writers, provided the group with free food and its own special large round table. The male members of the circle often met in hotel rooms on the upper floors to play poker.

The Round Table faded in the years following the stock market crash. By the mid-30s, it had ceased to exist. The era was depicted in the 1994 film "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle."

Ginny Redington and Tom Dawes wrote the book, music and lyrics. Redington has written songs for Gladys Knight and Sarah Vaughan. Dawes was a member of the rock group The Cyrkle (best known for their Paul Simon composed hit "Red Rubber Ball"). He also produced a number of records for other artists, including Foghat. Peccadillo artistic director Dan Wackerman will direct. The choreographer will be Mercedes Ellington, whose credits include the Broadway musical Play On!. The music director will be Jeffrey Biering.

Performances will be at Bank Street Theatre (155 Bank Street), and will run through Dec. 5. Tickets are $19 and may be purchased by calling Smarttix at (212) 868-4444, or online at www.smarttix.com.

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