Plays by Neil Simon, Velina Hasu Houston and a pre-Broadway revival of Bells Are Ringing comprise Pasadena Playhouse's 2000 season. The Good Doctor, Simon's little-seen adaptation of Anton Chekhov's short stories, is the kick-off attraction (July 7-Aug. 20). The world premiere of Houston's Ikebana ("Little Flowers") follows Sept. 8-Oct. 22, with Bells, the Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green musical, running from Nov. 3-Dec. 17.
Artistic director Sheldon Epps, who took over the helm at the Playhouse three years ago, also announced the cast and creative team for The Good Doctor. Stephanie Shroyer, co-founder and artistic director of the 24th Street Theatre, will direct, backed up by set designer Gary Wissman, lighting designer Michael Gilliam, costume designer Dana Woods and sound designer Stafford Floyd. The cast is headed by Harry Groener (Will Parker in the last major Broadway Oklahoma) and Michael Learned (a four-time Emmy winner). Other actors include Raye Birk, Marita Geraghty and Time Winters.
The Good Doctor was first done on Broadway in 1973. Simon turned to Chekhov's stories at a time when his first wife was ill. "She didn't know the seriousness of it, but I did," said Simon. "I thought it was important for me to just keep on working, so if she saw me working, that things would be okay. There was no way I could think of an idea for a play I wanted to write. I would read Chekhov who had such funny things, wonderful things, and also touching things...I just did it as an exercise to keep me busy, and I found that I was getting into it and that it might be a good thing to try because I was doing so many plays about my own life that it would be a nice change to just write it. I started to have some real fun with it."
Ikebana is an exotic tale of mystery, romance and tradition set in Japan in the 1950s; it deals with two young women struggling to find their place in life. They meet while studying the delicate art of flower arrangement and become close, only to be pulled apart by the love affairs they enter into.
Bells Are Ringing, which has an updated text by Comden and Green, is set in a telephone-answering service where Ella Peterson just can't help but offer advice and assistance to her customers. Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 S. El Molino Ave. For tickets and information call Telecharge (800) 233-3123.