Playwrights Horizons, the small Off-Broadway theater that grew into a powerhouse for play development during the 1980's, has nearly finalized its 1996-1997 season.
Playwrights Horizons is dedicated to shepherding new works to the stage and counts among its past successes Marvin's Room, Once On This Island, and Pulitzer Prizewinners Driving Miss Daisy, The Heidi Chronicles, and Sunday in the Park with George. This season features new plays by Nicky Silver, Jose Rivera, and Peter Hedges. The remaining work of the theater's four-play mainstage season will be announced shortly.
Fit to be Tied is Nicky Silver's followup to his hit farce about food, sex, and neurosis, The Food Chain, which just concluded an 11-month run Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre. Described as a play about "a man who kidnaps an angel from Radio City Music Hall," Fit will run September 20 to November 3 (opening October 13). Longtime Nicky Silver collaborator David Warren (Pterodactyls, Raised in Captivity) will direct. Lynn Redgrave was initially set to star, but left the project in a pay dispute; her role will be played by Jean Smart.
The comedy is the first in a series of plays developed under a production deal between Playwrights and Steven Spielberg's Amblin' Entertainment/DreamWorks. In this arrangement, Amblin'/DreamWorks gives commissions averaging $10,000 to playwrights picked by the theater in exchange for first-refusal rights to develop the plays for movies and television. The deal is being followed with considerable interest by other non-profit theaters as public funding for the arts continues to shrink.
Next up will be Jose Rivera's Cloud Tectonics, running from December 20 to February 2 (opening January 12) in a production directed by Tina Landau (Floyd Collins, The Trojan Women). A play about two Puerto Rican brothers involved with a pregnant hitchhiker one rainy night, Tectonics features Rivera's distinctive blend of magic realism and apocalyptic imagery. Landau directed the world premiere of Rivera's play at Louisville's Humana Festival in March 1995, as well as a subsequent production at La Jolla Playhouse later that year. Press representative Tom D'Ambrosio did not know if Landau would rework her La Jolla production for its New York premiere, or even if she would retain the San Diego cast or design team (which included set designer Riccardo Hernandez, who has since worked on two high profile Broadway transfers from New York Shakespeare Festival: The Tempest and Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk). Rivera's last play to open in New York, Marisol, arrived under a cloud of controversy when director George C. Wolfe reneged on an agreement to direct the play in favor of Angels in America on Broadway.
Playwrights' third production is still pending; its season finale will be Peter Hedges' play Baby Anger, running May 23 to July 6, with an opening set for June 15. The new work by the writer of Imagining Brad and What's Eating Gilbert Grape (the novel and screenplay) is described as a "funny roller coaster ride about the pressures of being parents". Anger will be directed by the white-hot Scott Elliott, who this past year scored a directorial hat trick Off-Broadway with enthusiastically received productions of Ecstasy, Curtains (Obie Award), and The Monogamist,the latter at Playwrights.
This past season's productions of Christopher Kyle's The Monogamist and Adam Guetell-Tina Landau's musical Floyd Collins at Playwrights were warmly received by critics. Playwrights Horizons'1996-1997 season is the first programmed by Artistic Director Tim Sanford, who took over from Don Scardino in the autumn of 1995.
-- By Andrew Ku