Taking a break from her ongoing television relationship with Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad returns to the stage to play Harlem Renaissance luminary Zora Neale Hurston in Thulani Davis' Everybody's Ruby. The production, which began performances Feb. 23, opens March 8 for a run through Mar. 28 at the Public Theater's Anspacher space. Kenny Leon, artistic director of Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, directs.
Everybody's Ruby: Story Of A Murder In Florida played as part of the Public's First Stages series last season. The drama is based on the murder of a popular white doctor in 1952 Florida. A married black woman is accused of the crime, setting off tremendous racial agitation and Hurston's investigation into the murder.
"I discovered the story in a footnote in a biography of Zora Neale Hurston," said adaptor Thulani Davis. "It was an amazing untold story about sex, race, money and Southern mores. I started out reading the newspaper clips Hurston wrote, and I couldn't answer to my own satisfaction why she didn't write a book about it. It raises questions about who owns a story."
Davis, a journalist and novelist as well as a playwright, is also collaborating with Wolfe and opera composer Anthony Davis (X) on a new opera, Amistad, to premiere at Chicago's Lyric Opera in the months ahead. Rashad has appeared as a regular on two Cosby sitcoms: the phenomenally popular '80s program "The Cosby Show," and the current "Cosby." On Broadway, she has appeared as the witch in Sondheim's Into the Woods. Recently, she played Medea at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, under the direction of Leon.
Everybody's Ruby will mark the second appearance by Zora Neale Hurston in an Off-Broadway play this season. Just before the new year, a revival of Zora Neale Hurston, starring Elizabeth Van Dyke, ended its stint at the American Place Theatre.
In other Public news, "NYPD Blue"'s Sharon Lawrence and Tony-winner Elizabeth Wilson will join Cherry Jones on stage for the Public Theatre production of Ellen McLaughlin's Tongue of a Bird, due to begin performances March 16, open Apr. 4 and run through Apr. 18.
As first reported by Playbill On-Line (Feb. 5), Jones will repeat her Mark Taper Forum performance as a search and rescue pilot in Tongue of a Bird. Her co-stars there were Marian Seldes and Diana Venora.
Lawrence is best known for her Emmy-nominated role on television's "NYPD Blue." Her Broadway credits include such landmark shows as Cabaret and Zorba.
Wilson won a Tony and Obie for her performance in David Rabe's Sticks and Bones. Other credits include Threepenny Opera, Solonika, Morning's at Seven and Ah, Wilderness.
Also in the cast are Melissa Leo (TV's "Homicide") and pre-teen actress Julia McIlvaine, who played opposite Jones in Lincoln Center Theatre's production of Tina Howe's Pride's Crossing.
Taper resident director Lisa Peterson stages the drama, which tells the story of an ace pilot (Jones) hunting for an abducted young girl (Johnson). The Taper is co-producing with the Joseph Papp Public Theatre.
The drama is described as being "rich in poetic text and stunning imagery," and as defining "a quest that transcends time itself as it soars toward its haunting, inexorable climax."
Bird was originally commissioned by the Taper and developed in the Taper's 1995-96 New Work Festival. It had its world premiere at the Intiman Theatre in September, 1997 and was subsequently produced at the Almeida Theatre in London.
Jones won acclaim last season in Pride's Crossing. She is expected in New York next season in a Broadway revival of O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten. Jones said (Feb. 4) the O'Neill is still in the works and no theatre or cast have been selected.
Lisa Kron's solo show, 2.5 Minute Ride, directed by Mark Brokaw, will begin performances Mar. 17 for a Mar. 28 opening at the Shiva Theater. Kron, one of the Five Lesbian Brothers, brought her solo to CA's Marin CenterStage, SF's Magic Theatre and RI's Trinity Rep, Jan. 21-25.
Writer and actress Kron (101 Humiliating Stories) tells of the trip she took with her 74 year-old father -- a Holocaust survivor -- to Auschwitz (the Jan. 21 performance benefits both RI's Perishable Theatre and the Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial Museum). Also part of the mix: other true family travels and her brother's marriage to an internet bride.
The show's title refers to a "Mean Streak" roller coaster ride in Sandusky, OH, which Kron took with her father -- who was taking nitrogen pills for a heart condition at the time. His philosophy about the Holocaust (in which his parents died): "If it weren't for the good fortune of being born a Jew, I might have become a Nazi."
As part of The Five Lesbian Brothers, Kron appeared in The Secretaries and Brides Of The Moon at New York Theatre Workshop. Recently, she returned to NYTW in Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told.
Brokaw, who for the past couple years could do no wrong, has directed such successes as This Is Our Youth, As Bees in Honey Drown, The Dying Gaul and How I Learned to Drive.
Call (213) 972-0790 for more information.