While San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre gears up for the U.S. premiere of Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love in mid-January, Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre is readying its own production (the East Coast premiere) of the drama, to run Feb. 9-March 12. Wilma co-artistic director Blanka Zizka stages the drama, the fourth Stoppard play to be produced at the venue.
Invention centers around English poet A.E. Housman (author of "A Shropshire Lad"), who, now old and infirm, dreams of his own death. In the dream, he revisits his Oxford college days and his first love, a male student. Homosexuality was still a crime back then, and the play also deals with a fellow "criminal" living out his final days: Oscar Wilde.
Martin Rayner, who appeared on Broadway in Conversations With My Father, and New Jersey Shakespeare Festival veteran Mark Alhadeff star as the old and young Housmans of the play, with George Tynan Crowley playing Wilde -- a role he's already essayed, in Florida Studio Theater's Gross Indecency. Also in the cast are H. Michael Walls, Eli Finkelman, Ian Merrill Peakes, Benjamin Lloyd, Lenny Haas, Edmund C. Davys, John Curless and Laurie Norton.
Designing Invention are Michael McGarty (set), Janus Stefanowitz (costumes), Russell Champa (lighting) and Adam Wernick (sound, original music).
Stoppard's other plays include Arcadia, Travesties and On the Razzle, all of which have been produced at the Wilma. The author's romantic comedy-drama, The Real Thing, will have a Broadway revival this spring. As for the San Francisco mounting of Invention, that production features James Cromwell (filmdom's "Babe" and "Babe: Pig in the City") and is being eyed for New York possibilities.
For tickets and information on The Invention of Love at the Wilma Theatre call (215) 546-7824.