As anyone in the theatre industry in New York can tell you, there's not much going on this summer. What is going on is primarily Off-Broadway, and those few shows Off-Broadway are in trouble. High Infidelity, the John Dooley comedy starring Morgan Fairchild and John Davidson, has been trying to open at the Promenade Theatre for a while now. It suffered a set-back a couple weeks ago when one of the supporting cast, actress J.C. Wendel, suddenly declared herself "unhappy" and hopped a flyer for sunny California (causing the cancellation of two performances). She was replaced by Jennifer Roszell, but the extra rehearsals forced producers to postpone the planned Aug. 3 opening. A new opening date has not yet been announced.
Meanwhile, the upcoming resident at the Minetta Lane has experienced a delay and a title change -- and the play hasn't even begun previews. The new "satiric comedy with music" by Albert Tapper and James Racheff was first announced as After the Follicle (the plot involves hair issues). The name was then changed to imPERFECT CHEMISTRY [sic]. Then, this week, the first preview was pushed back from Aug. 8 to Aug. 15. Stay tuned.
There was other news Off-Broadway, including season reports from Playwrights Horizons, MCC Theatre and Classic Stage Company (CSC). And a lot of it involved Brian Murray. Those who have followed the career of this locomotive of an actor had cause to worry over the past season. Murray, who typically appeared in three or four Gotham productions every season, was seen in only one: Uncle Vanya. (The tour of Finian's Rainbow ate up a lot of his time.)
But with 2000-2001, Murray is back and booked. The actor will open the season at Playwrights Horizons in Theresa Rebeck's latest, Butterfly Collection (beginning Sept. 8). Co-starring will be another tireless actor, Marion Seldes. Murray's winter is, at present, not spoken for, but he makes up for it in spring 2001 by not only starring in MCC's SKIPwith, but also co-writing the script with Anto Howard.
Under Barry Edelstein, CSC's recent seasons have typically featured jazzed-up or deconstructed versions of classics such as The Misanthrope and The Alchemist, accompanied by the blinding visitations of stars including Uma Thurman, Mira Sorvino and John Turturro. The coming season takes on a darker, decidedly more serious hue. The roster opens with Bill Irwin in Beckett's Texts for Nothing, continues with two plays on Holocaust themes (Race by Ferdinand Bruckner and I Will Bear Witness by Victor Klemperer), and continues with a Philip Glass music-theatre work based on Kafka's In the Penal Colony, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis. The line-up is nearly European in character and is bound to provoke a lot of interest and comment. There was some activity on Broadway, most of it involving the Roundabout Theatre Company and much of that taking place in the shadows. The casting of the theatre's upcoming Broadway revival of Follies has sent racing the imaginations of many a rabid musical fan. Offers have started to go out, and, if you believe the gossip, half of the working actors in New York are up for a role. Some of the commonly mentioned names include Judith Ivey, Jean Smart, Dan Butler and Gregory Harrison, but nobody has been confirmed. Meanwhile, the show is not due to open until next spring.
In other news, the Roundabout's Todd Haimes said, some weeks ago, that the theatre was looking for an Off-Broadway house in the Times Square area. Well, it looks like he may have found it. PBOL learned that the company will assume in 2002 a commercial lease on the American Place Theatre, the 30-year-old, three-theatre space on W. 46th Street. If the Roundabout moves in, it would displace American Place, which plans to continue operations elsewhere, as well as Theatre for a New Audience, which took up residence on one of the stages last season. (The latter revealed its upcoming season this week, including Edward Bond's Saved and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, the latter marking Sir Peter Hall's Off-Broadway directorial debut.)
When Richard Nelson chatted with reporters backstage at the 2000 Tony Awards, after winning a trophy for his book of James Joyce's The Dead, he mentioned that his new play, Madame Melville, would reach Broadway in the fall. Those plans have changed. The work will now reportedly bow in London in October, and with a surprising star: Macaulay Culkin. According to an article in The Express newspaper, the former child film star will play a student who is seduced by the thirty-something French teacher of the title. Macaulay's brother, Kieran Culkin, made his Off-Broadway debut this past spring at Playwrights Horizons in James Lapine's The Moment When.
Finally, every now and then a classic play comes in vogue after languishing for many years. A year or so back, it seemed everyone was desperate to do Tennessee Williams' Camino Real. The wheel has turned and now the irresistible drama of the moment is Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. It all started when, in 1999, Annette Bening returned to the stage in Los Angeles as Henrik's famous girl with a gripe and a gun. This summer, Kate Burton played Hedda (in the same Jon Robin Baitz translation Bening used), first at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island, then at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. And the Gablers keep gambolling on. Laila Robins will play Ibsen's anti-heroine at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis this fall; the Aurora Theatre Company of Berkeley will mount Baitz's translation next spring; and Judith Light will pack a pistol at Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2001. Presumably, one of these Heddas will head to New York. But, then again, we never saw any of those Camino Reals.
--By Robert Simonson