It sometimes seems that certain living theatre artists never go a year without their achievements being sung in some formal manner at an august institution or grandiose hall. On the musical side, there are Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman, who by now can fairly set their watches by the tributes, musical concerts and benefits held in their honor. As for playwrights, on this side of the Atlantic, the perennial golden boy is Edward Albee, that crusty contrarian who acts slighted no matter how often he is called great. On the other edge of the Pond, Harold Pinter is the sacred cow.
New York this month finds itself in yet another highly orchestrated tip of the hat to the playwright who never met a menace too obscure, a pause too pregnant. The Harold Pinter Festival, part of the Lincoln Center Festival 2001, began on July 16 with a double bill of One for the Road and A Kind of Alaska. The first is of particular interest to the Pinterati (as Kenneth Tynan called the dramatist's acolytes), as it also stars the writer. Pinter has been acting in plays and films for some time, but this marks his American stage debut.
But, Mr. Pinter is all over the Upper West Side this month. July 24-28, he will direct 1957's The Room, his first play, and Celebration, his latest satire. When the playwright himself is not on hand, his reputation is securely in the hands of several of his strongest and most devoted interpreters, including directors Karol Reisz and Robin LeFevre, and actors Lindsay Duncan and Ian Holm (who was the original Lenny in The Homecoming).
Going back to Albee, the man is due to have another banner season in 2001-02. This, after the banner season of 2000-01, with its successful mountings of the once reviled Tiny Alice and the fresh work The Play About the Baby. (Really, Albee hasn't had a bad press day since his comeback with Three Tall Women) — although, to be fair, he still needs a few more good years to average out all the many miserable ones that preceded that play.) The coming schedule will again be a mix of the old and the new. Already announced for Second Stage's season is the 1975 work Seascape. Now, producer Elizabeth McCann has revealed her hope to get Albee's latest, improbably titled The Goat or Who is Sylvia? to Broadway in spring 2002. Baby director David Esbjornson would again helm.
Another probability for next season is Richard Alfieri's Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks. The play has been a hit for L.A.'s Geffen Playhouse, extending twice. Much credit for this is due, no doubt, to stars Uta Hagen and David Hyde Pierce. Spring 2002 is the target time for the NYC bow. If the play does make it here, it will give New York audience the third opportunity in six years to see the legendary Hagen, an actress who habitually hints the play she's currently gracing is her true and final swan song. Actor Michael Nouri is busy suddenly. He is currently starring in a new staging of Funny Girl, opposite Judy Blazer, at the Sundance Theatre in Utah. The show recently extended to Sept. 1. Following that, he'll go straight into in new 50-week touring revival of South Pacific that begins at the Palace Theatre in Columbus Sept. 25. Barry and Fran Weissler, in association with Clear Channel Entertainment, produce the tour, which stars Erin Dilly as Nellie.
Undoubtedly the most curious theatrical event of the week is New York's Proteus Theatre Company's valiant attempt to stage Orson Welles' legendary adaptation of Herman Melville's great novel, Moby Dick. Welles conceived the piece as retelling of the whaling novel by a turn-of-the-century acting troupe. The Actor-Manager, played by Welles, and then Rod Steiger in the Broadway staging, takes the role of Ahab during a rehearsal, performing the character on a bare stage. Welles mounted the piece in London in 1955 and in New York in 1962. The latter was the last major stage effort by the one-time "Great White Hope of Broadway." The ambitious adaptation has had a fascination for theatre artists ever since. (A production was given at the Berkshire Theatre Festival two summers ago.) Apropos enough, Proteus is putting up the play in the large boat shed at the historic Consolidated Yachts on the nautical City Island in the Bronx. Future productions of Proteus' Moby Dick are planned for Queens and Long Island. Watch for it at a dock near you.
—By Robert Simonson